Turning the Page

By turningthepage

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Bill Cockrell
 Sep 25, 2019

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Empowering your Mental Health - Faith: Hope: Love with Barry Pearman

Episode Date
What to do with your Curve – Incurvatus in se
14:53

There is a self-centeredness to ourselves, a turned/curved inwardness, incurvatus in se, but there is one that shows how to break the gravity, the pull of the curve.

There is a pull on me all the time.

It’s in the lyrics of the eighties pop hit.

What about me, it isn’t fair I’ve had enough now I want my share Can’t you see I wanna live But you just take more than you give. Garry Frost and Frances Swan

There is a demand for others to meet my needs. They should know that my life is the most important thing in the universe. It’s all about me.

Meet my needs; then, I might move on to listening to yours.

There is a curve, and all our thoughts run into it. When we run into others’ curves, their demands for a better life, then there is a clash.

There is a fancy theological term for this gravitational pull. It’s ‘Incurvatus in se’

Incurvatus in se

‘Incurvatus in se’ is Latin for “turned/curved inward on oneself.” It’s like a gravitational pull affecting everything I do.

I love others, but deeply I wonder ‘what’s in it for me.’ I give to others but wonder if I will receive back.

I am an empty vessel, and I demand you fill me.

Tell me pleasant things, nice things, affirm me. Fill me with water. I am hungry so feed me.

I am determined to see my pain relieved, and I will do whatever it takes to meet that need.

Some may give it a diagnosis such as Narcissism, but it’s in all of us. This inward curving towards ourselves. For some, you can easily see their curve, but with most, it’s more hidden, subtle, and manipulative.

Of course, no one can ever completely meet the need of the curve. Because, well, they are also under the gravitational pull of the curve too.

Perhaps sometimes, they offer a few drops of presence that somewhat alleviates the pain. But for the most part, we are so thirsty and determined for pain relief that it becomes automatic to reach for the chocolate bar, bottle, online shopping, or porn site. We have a curve that takes us to a cistern.

Where does your curve take you?

God is compassionate about curves.

Are you feeling somewhat down now?

I may well have woken you up to the reality of something of yourself that you may not like. But isn’t an awareness of the battle better than living in a foggy dream world?

We need someone who fully knows the power of the gravitational pull to self-centredness to somehow push against the trend.

Read more here 

Sep 23, 2021
Are you Tired and Weary? You Need a Refuge
14:23

Tired and weary, worn down and burned out. You can’t find relief because you have no refuge. So let’s build a storm shelter together.

It’s the noise that wears you down. The ambient, in the background but all around you, stresses of life.

You’re the meat in the sandwich, and everyone wants a bite.

Its the

  • People
  • Politics
  • Media
  • Feelings and thoughts

The grind of the grindstone wears you down till nothing is left.

All you want to do is to go to a place where the streets have no names, no postal codes, and there’s no one hammering on your door.

I want to run, I want to hide I wanna tear down the walls that hold me inside I wanna reach out and touch the flame Where the streets have no name. U2

My Mothers Bible

The other day I was flicking through my mother’s Bible and happened to come across a verse in the Psalms where she had marked with pen and added a date.

I checked the date with other memories of what was happening in the stream of her life at that time.

It was a time of struggle for my mother.

My father was unwell, and she was losing him. He died 82 days later, on October 3rd. She would follow him in ‘promotion to glory’ 166 days later.

I recently wrote about this in a guest post on Contemplative light – I’m Grateful For Ink

What a stormy time for us as a family that was.

 

Read more here

Sep 16, 2021
The Problem is Not the Problem
13:26

“The problem is not the problem. The real problem is much worse.” Sandy Burdick

I can still see the look of abject horror on Alma’s face, and the dark brown eyes opened wide as I approached her. I was about to tell her that she was magnificent, and she was terrified.

She was an inmate at a women’s prison where I was part of a team that met weekly with groups of women who were sexually abused as children or adolescents.

In our first session, we always showed the short classic movie, “The Butterfly Circus.” 

It is an incredible telling of the gospel story and the impact of a relationship with Christ without mentioning faith or religion.

In it, the leader of the Butterfly Circus, Mendez, encounters a man, Will, with no arms or legs at a different circus’s sideshow.

While others make catcalls or pull back it horror, or even throw tomatoes at him when the crowd clears out, Mendez approaches Will, leans down to look him eye-to-eye, and says in true admiration, “You are magnificent?”

Will is so stunned; he spits in Mendez’ face.

When the movie reaches its dramatic conclusion, we members of the team get up and go look each of the inmates in the face and say “You are magnificent!”

Alma had seen that happen to several of her fellow inmates and now saw me approaching her.

With that look of horror on her face, wide-eyed, she began to shout at me, “No! No! Don’t you dare say that to me.”

 

Read more on website

Sep 09, 2021
Are You Afraid of Who You’re Becoming
15:56

The change felt good, but they were also afraid of who they might be becoming. Then they learned that they were not alone and to trust the train they were traveling on.

It’s always scary when you don’t know what’s on the other side. Who am I becoming? What will happen as my new self is revealed? Will I be rejected? Will I be hurt like the last time I stepped out?

For my friend John, this was new ground he was walking on.

Never been here before, and he felt fragile.

We had been walking, talking, and praying together for a few months, and he was beginning to see something change in him.

It wasn’t forced or fake. It was, in his words, ‘Natural.’

Like it was something that was there all along but now seemed to be making an appearance and revealing itself. Like a spring of water starting to bubbe up seemingly from nowhere.

But he was kind of scared about who he was becoming.

He knew he couldn’t stop this internal growth, it was good, and he didn’t want it to stop, but what about how others would react to the new man.

All the scenarios played out before him.

Where was this train taking him?

When you’ve learned some new things about yourself, processed some pain, asked some hard questions, and worked out some shakey solutions, then there is always an invite.

It’s an invitation to move forward. You can no longer stay where you are or even retreat back.

You feel like you’re on this train and it has already left the station of yesterday. It’s chugging along, and you’re wondering what’s coming next.

There may be quiet and excited anticipation, but more so, there may be a fear of here we go again.

In the past, you put yourself out there and showed your best creative self, but people, even your family, and friends shot you down. Instead of cheering you on, you got ambivalence and negativity. No one captured your vision.

Read more here

Sep 01, 2021
How to Stop Being the Scapegoat. Six Keys
22:32

Are you tired of being the Scapegoat but don’t know how to stop it? Six key steps to stop being the dumping ground of other people’s rubbish. 

She felt like they were making her a scapegoat.

They were saying she was responsible for all the terrible things that had happened. It was her fault. Everything bad that happened was her responsibility.

This was a pattern of abuse she had experienced for a very long time. Jenny remembered as a child that once her mother had broken a cup, but somehow it was her fault. Then, the vicious words rained down.

Now it felt like she was a human receptor for other people’s stuff.

She was wired for it. Anything that went wrong, she took the blame.

Even when they didn’t blame her or say it was her fault, she still, for some strange reason, felt she was to blame.

She reasoned that it must be something to do with her. She was a failure, and so she caused all these bad things to happen.

Jenny had a big ugly, smelly goat bleating in her brain.

This belief entered early into her brain when she started to receive the abuse of others. Then she took it on as part of her identity.

The scapegoat was as much of her identity as goat’s cheese is made of goat’s milk.

Her depression was worsening as the guilt and shame piled up. Her anxiety was building as she waited for the next guilt-filled message to be handed out and for her to take in.

She was tired. Really tired. The goat, and its bleating, was keeping her up at night and alert all day.

But now, she was beginning to wake up to the bleating, blahhing, and destructiveness of its voice.

Read more here.

Aug 26, 2021
Do You Have a Scapegoat in the Backyard of Your Brain
14:23

They kept feeling a sense of guilt and blame for something they didn’t do, but then they discovered a Scapegoat living in the backyard of their brain.

It wasn’t nasty, or maybe in a subtle kind of a way it was, but they felt like they were receiving all the blame for things that happened, and because of that, they were being excluded from the relationship.

Why would anyone want to have a relationship with someone like them?

Someone so terrible as they were.

And it was so subtle, so sly, that over time this inner negative critic wove its words into their deepest beliefs about themselves.

It was a goat. A scapegoat, and they had one bleating in their brain.

  • It’s all your fault
  • You’re the one to blame
  • You never get anything right
  • They did this because of you
  • You don’t deserve any relationship

Then with these inner voices bleating in their brain, they began to believe that they didn’t have any value or worth.

Nothing beautiful or meaningful about this smelly old goat.

They withdrew, hid, and definitely didn’t put themselves out there because they knew that there would be just more criticism, blaming, and shaming.

They had a goat, a scapegoat, grazing in their brain.

 

Read more at Do You Have a Scapegoat in the Backyard of Your Brain?

   

 

Aug 18, 2021
Five Actions to Take when Someone Rains on Your Parade
21:40

Some people seem to like to rain on your parade, but we can learn how to hoist an umbrella and continue on.

They couldn’t help themselves.

Anything my friend did was negated. Any attempt at doing something special, creative, or different was criticized and smashed with harsh words. Sometimes an indifference, a bored ‘Whatever.’

It wasn’t that they wanted approval, but more so, they wanted to share the joy they found in their creativity.

They had the breath of a creative God within them, and they wanted to share their own creative expression with those dearest to them, but it was routinely dismissed as nothing. So there was ambivalence to their deepest gift.

Something began to die and shrivel up within them. The spark of expression was growing low.

Nothing they did was good enough. Depression, a poverty of spirit, and despair slowly began to suffocate the God breath out of them.

 

Read more here

Aug 11, 2021
Why Did the Samaritan Cross the road Because the Chicken didn’t
24:28

So why did the Samaritan cross the road? Perhaps he wasn’t afraid of the sky falling in. Let’s not be chicken with people like us.

I happened to call an acquaintance of mine a few days ago. He does some jobs for me every now and then.

As we talked, he said that he had a kind of personal crisis in his life. So I gently pressed a bit further and found out what had happened.

The same thing had happened to me many years ago. In my gut, I felt a deep connection. We chatted for a bit longer, and then we finished the call.

Later that day, I realized that I could have offered a bit more. I thought that I could have invited him for a chat and a coffee.

I thought of all the excuses not to cross the road as such and invite him in.

  • I’m too busy
  • He’s too busy
  • He might think I’m overly intrusive, nosey.
  • I might not know what to say

Then I remembered this post you’re about to read.

Read more here

Aug 04, 2021
The Secret Questions of a Secret Life
17:12

Many of us carry secret questions, and we are hungry for answers, but we need someone safe. Someone secure in themselves yet vulnerable to listen well.

 

When the pastor sermonized my personal story, I felt exposed.

I was once in a small group in a church, where our Pastor taught us how to be leaders in the church.

Once a fortnight, we would meet, talk about what was happening in our lives, then he would give some teaching, perhaps a visiting speaker would chat with us. Overall it was a good thing.

I felt safe. That was until the Pastor used something that I shared in total privacy as an illustration in his sermon.

Now, most of the people in the church service would not have associated the story with me. He didn’t say my name, but there were enough people there to know that this illustration was about me.

I felt exposed, angry, and violated. I had given him my trust, and he used my struggle for his gain.

I never trusted him again.

Another story of exposure. I shared something deep with a pastor, and they, too, decided to share it with others. Then the story gained momentum and a life of its own.

Some people shouldn’t be in positions where they are to hold another’s heart. They are not secure within themselves to keep a fragile gift.

I’ve heard people’s stories, still do, but I don’t share them. I will go to the grave with them. Fortunately, as one person said, I have a very good ‘Forgetter Computer.’

When you’re living in fear of exposure

For many of us, we have questions and struggles rolling around in our heads, but we don’t want anyone to know.

All the internal struggles. If we disclose them, then we’re sure to be rejected, dismissed, abandoned.

So we create an alternative life that is very secret. We don’t feel safe with the ones whom we’re meant to feel safe with.

We think we are the only ones with these struggles.

And if you’re that person reading this, then I want to assure you that you’re not the only one living a secret life.

I think we all do.

We present to the world one face, while all along, we have another world in which we have unmentionable questions, crazy thoughts, and wild passions.

But we have no one safe to express the internal drama, and so we are stuck.

We type our questions into Google, scour the screen for answers, and sicken ourselves with comparisonitis.

We might even send a postcard to at least tell the universe.

He came in the night.

There is a wonderful story of a man who was in this dilemma.

He didn’t want the exposure, but he still had questions. Every kid in Sunday School memorizes the answers he got.

His name was Nicodemus, and he was someone who was supposed to have all the answers, the religious answers.

His role in society in Jesus’ day was that of a Pharisee. He was a keeper of the religion.

But then Jesus came and threw the rule book up in the air and talked about relationships.

We find the story of Nicodemus in three places.

The first is when he came by night to Jesus.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” John 3:1,2

It’s interesting to see that Nicodemus ‘came to Jesus at night.’ He didn’t want to be seen connecting with the Christ, but he was hungry with questions.

So many of us are like Nicodemus. We are hungry with questions, but if they were to be told, we could lose our social ranking, status, safety, and even our family and friends. We risk exposure if we show ourselves.

The next time we meet Nicodemus is when he is defending Jesus’ right to free speech.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” John 7:50, 51

The final time is when he cares for the crucified body of Jesus.

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. John 19:38-42

Two men, both living in fear, were the ones to touch the crucified body of Christ. Secret servants.

Are you living in fear of someone or something? The body of Christ welcomes your attention.

By the way, note that Nicodemus brought a ‘mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.’ That’s 34 kgs—nothing secret about this man’s love for Jesus.

The story of questions

I want to connect with people living in fear of exposure.

Someone once wrote on my whiteboard

‘Will I be loved if they knew the real me’?

We could add other questions of exposure.

  • Will I be loved if they find out about my porn addiction?
  • Will I be loved if they find out about my comfort eating?
  • Will I be loved if they find out about me getting help?
  • Will I be loved if I don’t go to Sunday church anymore?

What’s your secret that you fear exposure of?

And so we come by night looking for connection.

In the story of Nicodemus, we see a story of spiritual formation. From the questions said in private to being with another secret servant and the adornment of a dead body.

Knocking on the door

In my mind, I imagine Nicodemus sneaking through the streets and dark alleys. Then, finally, he comes to the place where Jesus was resting.

He knocks on the door, waits, hides in the shadows, the door opens, and he quickly dashes in.

Jesus and his followers look to see a man,  a pharisee, and they wonder.

He has his questions. Is it safe to speak? Is there a traitor in the room?

He moves close to Jesus and with a whisper begins his carefully prepared question.

But Jesus throws him questions about his question. It’s a style of opening the heart for a deeper connection. Jesus is a master at this style of meeting the heart.

By the way, Jesus still throws us questions that invite us to walk on water.

When we come with our deepest secrets to God, we come to one who is fully aware of the whole of our story. God knows more about our story than we know ourselves. Therefore, nothing surprises God, and nothing will shock them.

God is not one to expose us to the darkness and the frigidity of nakedness.

They clothe us with compassion and love. They envelop us with community. They don’t throw us to the opinions and judgments of humanity. They don’t have a judge’s gavel ready to fall upon the tenderness of a secret.

Being the one that welcomes

I need someone to welcome my mystery—all those secrets, questions, and fears.

Not someone to spread the word and to pick up a megaphone.

I also don’t want someone to give me a quick answer—the textbook solution. More so, I want someone to explore the secrets and offer me other questions that journey me down new paths.

Isn’t this what Jesus did with so many?

He spoke in parables and stories about wheat and wind, hidden treasures, and lost coins.

Stories were told to confuse those listening with logic, but to those listening with the heart, a hungry heart, there was allurement for more.

How it works here

Do you fear exposure?

How it works here on Turning the Page is that you can knock on my door by sending me an email. It’s as private as that. 

You can also access all the books, courses, and conversations with me on a Pay What You Want basis, which includes Free, just if someone is watching your bank account and you don’t want them to know.

I am trusting in a God of a bigger economic providence than what humanity is constraining itself to.

You can come out of the dark here; you don’t need to be alone anymore.

Quotes to consider
  • Grace shows up when logic breaks down. Richard Rohr
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  •  Integrity is often a willingness to hold the dark side of things instead of reacting against them, denying them, or projecting our anxiety elsewhere. Richard Rohr. Eager to Love
  •  “Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information.  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1. ‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2. ‘I will accept you regardless of what you say.'” Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
  1. When have you felt exposed?
  2. What are the secrets that you want to have someone listen to with openness and love?
  3. What would it be like to be in the room where Jesus and Nicodemus are in conversation?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Ashley Light on Unsplash

Jul 28, 2021
I will Champion your Mental Health
11:47

Life has many struggles, but with a champion, someone who will walk and talk, we have someone who reminds us of our progress and gives us hope.

I was recently talking with someone about the struggles in their life. We had walked many a mile together over the years.

As we talked, I asked if they remembered how they were five years ago. We actually rated some of their feelings. Five years ago, it was a 9 out of 10 struggle, but now it was 2 out of 10.

They looked up with a sense of realization. Things had actually changed. Some of the issues they faced back then hadn’t changed that much, but many of them had.

From this, they took a great deal of encouragement, and I did too.

For them, the deepest parts of their journey had not been seen by many. They didn’t want others to know. But there were a few special people, such as myself, that they had let into their private dark hole.

In my eyes, they were a superhero. Very few went where they went. Now they were strong in ways unimaginable a few years ago.

Noticing the progress

Have you ever been to a forest, and all you see are the trees, the obstacles, and maybe a faint path to follow?

Your attention gets consumed by what is all around you.

You forget about how far you’ve come. Sure, you might feel it in your body. Aches and pains, but all you know is the depth and darkness of the forest.

That is until you climb a hill, or there is a break in the trees, and you can look back and see how far you’ve come. You’re amazed at the progress from placing one foot in front of another—one millimeter at a time.

There is a saying, ‘You can’t see the forest for the trees. ‘

I would also say you can’t see the progress for the trees.

The depth of the present struggle is so all-consuming that there is no pause to take in the wonder of where you’ve come from.

A champion walking alongside us invites us to take a break, have a sip of water and celebrate the progress.

I think it’s so important to have people in our lives that in various ways, can lift us out of the daily battle with the trees, the brush, and the weeds.

They point out how far we have come and offer us a perspective about where we are going.

Then it’s back to the millimeter by millimeter bush-bashing through the shrubbery of weeds and wilderness.

There can be loneliness to this journey.

One of the features of many people’s journey is loneliness. You feel that no one is there with you.

Possibly you might have friends and family, but there you are with your happy mask because you don’t want anyone else to know the deep struggle you’re going through.

So you’re alone.

You may have reached out, been dismissed, felt overlooked, and disregarded. No one gets you.

You wonder why you’re so self-focused. Isnt that selfishness?

Surely others have it worse off than you.  Maybe they do, but actually, you don’t know. Your journey is your journey.

You trudge on seeing the trees, the weeds, the struggle.

The champion in your family

There is an interesting little verse in the Psalms.

God places the lonely in families Psalm 68:6

This is not so much a family of mum, dad, and the kids. More so, it is a nest of relationships where we can call home.

I have a champion in my family nest. Actually, I might have more than one.

This is not someone who has a big shiny winners cup but more so someone who desires to champion me.

A champion is someone who supports or defends a person or cause.

Think of these champions

    • Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement
    • Nelson Mandela and the Anti-apartheid movement
    • Kate Shepherd and the women’s suffrage movement
    • Bill Sinclair and his support of John Bishop
    • Mary Smith and her commitment to her friend Jenny Bertland

You probably don’t know the last two champion names on the list. I don’t know them either. They are fictitious. I made them up.

But you probably do know people like them.

People who walk alongside someone and encourage them when they can’t see the forest for the trees. They can’t see the progress for the weeds.

We all need a Mental health champion.

I recently had a champion share some very kind words with me. It filled my heart like a breathe of fresh air fills the lungs.

I sucked it in and let it seep in deep.

They weren’t trite words. Instead, they were words crafted out of a known awareness of being in a battle themselves. They knew the walk and so could talk the walk.

I needed that.

Into the pool room – my encouragement journal – went their words.

 

I believe we all need people who will regularly come alongside and pour words of life into the dry and parched areas of the soul. People who have taken the time to watch and listen.

Friends who will champion us as a person of great worth and value.

Let’s walk and talk

We need more Bills and Marys to walk and talk with Johns and Jennys.

Champions.

We have a mental health crisis, and I believe much of it could be addressed by people learning how to walk and talk.

Sharing some wisdom, crying together, laughing.

Reflecting on progress made in life because there were simple conversations and words of encouragement.

I wonder what would happen if all of us would say to one other person, I want to walk and talk with you and be your champion?

Quotes to consider
  • The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage.  To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. James Kouzes and Barry Posner – Encouraging the Heart
  • Research teaches us that the capacity to reach out to others for help in dealing with fear and pain is the best single remedy for emotional injury.  Whether the person is struggling with the effects of combat, rape, or childhood injury, the best predictor of trauma resolution is good social support. Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It.
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis
  • Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead Walk beside me… just be my friend. Albert Camus
  • Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. Mother Teresa
  •  Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye named not good. John Milton
  • “There is a soul yonder which is lonely.” And he added, deep in his own mind, “I owe him a visit.” The priest in Les Miserables  Victor Hugo
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear.  Larry Crabb
  • Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. Desmond Tutu
Questions to answer
  1. Who has been a champion for you?
  2. What are the qualities of a good champion?
  3. Are you able to look back and see the progress?
Further reading

Do You Feel Alone in Your Struggle?

God Sets the Lonely in Families

Why Men Don’t Talk. 26 Reasons for Silence

Barry Pearman

Photo by Malte Schmidt on Unsplash

Jul 22, 2021
I’m Not Religious but I Have A Religion
22:02

‘I’m not religious’ is something many say, but religion is a place of reconnection and realignment. Good mental health grows in a healthy religious experience.

Say the word ‘Religion,’ and you’ll get lots of reactions.

The word ‘Religion’ can a springboard to thoughts of rules, regulations, rituals, commitments, vows, attendance at meetings, obedience, hierarchy, and people often wearing funny-looking clothes.

Religion is often seen as a straightjacket to freedom. You must do certain things to get right with God and be part of the group.

But I think we are all prone to want to find a religion of our own, even making a religion we can call home.

Let’s look into the word religion a bit deeper.

The reconnect of Religion.

If we look into the history of the word, we find that it comes from two words  re-ligare, i.e., re- (again) + ligare or “to reconnect.”

Re-ligio is to re-ligament or reconnect.

I see a surgeon reconnecting ligaments and bones back into the sockets where they have been pulled out.

There is a reconnection to something bigger than oneself.

We’ve drifted, detached, disconnected, and want to come home to the unity of something bigger than ourselves.

There is also the thought of realignment. That religion offers a realignment to a drifting soul. Here is the path. Walk this way—a compass to follow.

We all have a religion.

Using these definitions, I think we all have a religion.

A method by which we reconnect with something bigger than ourselves. Something that realigns us.

We may not be conscious of it, but it will be there calling us back to a conformity.

It might be that sport you love. It could be a personal philosophy or a political party.

The religion of communism or capitalism.

We all have a religion, but it may not meet in a building on Sunday.

So what can a religion offer you?

Playgrounds and fences

It was a busy neighborhood, and cars, buses, and trucks drove many of the streets. But there was no place for the children to play, to have fun, explore, climb, fall and kick a ball.

Nowhere for lovers to walk and children to make friends.

So the parents got together and found an empty area in the middle of their neighborhood and petitioned the town council to create a park full of swings, jumps, and climbing frames.

It was agreed, and the building began.

Trees were planted, a water fountain installed, flower gardens, picnic tables, park benches, climbing walls, poles to swing off.

This was a place where all could come and reconnect to the joy of play and fun.

First kisses would be experienced. Lifelong friendships would form. People could stretch out on the grass and enjoy the summer sun.

But nearby was that busy, dangerous road. It was a huge risk for any child chasing a ball.

So the council built a fence.  It was strong and sturdy and stopped any errant ball or flying frisbee.

Everyone was safe while they stayed within the park’s boundaries, within the fenceline, inside the lines of love and respect.

Religion, in many ways, offers the nuts, bolts, and mesh of the fenceline. We know the rules, the norms, and social conventions.

For newcomers, it has to be taught.

‘In this park, we don’t have wild drunken parties; it’s not safe for the children. And we don’t do drugs. Go to some other park if you want to do that.’

Sadly though, there are many people more interested in focusing on the fenceline and rule board at the entry gate than enjoying the relational benefits of the park.

They may even form committees to ensure everyone knows the rules and that the fenceline is strong and robust.

I once had someone come to me wanting to point out the fenceline, the rules, the regulations. When I suggested we talk about a Jesus story about the fence line, he wasn’t interested. ‘I don’t want to talk about Jesus’ was his response. BIG RED FLAG!

I was inviting him to play on the Jesus climbing frame, and all he wanted to do was inspect the tightness of the mesh fence.

His religious playground was small, black and white, and empty of life.

His back was turned away from having relational fun.

He faced forward like a sergeant major, making sure the religious rules were kept and abided by.

He was trapped in what Richard Rohr would call ‘Early-stage religion.’

Early-stage religion tends to focus on cleaning up, which is to say, determining who meets the requirements for moral behavior and religious belief. Richard Rohr The Universal Christ

And it’s this ‘Early-stage religion’ that gives religion a bad rap. Who wants that!

Sadly, many people stay stuck in ‘Early-stage religion’ and never learn to dance in the summer sun and find their first enduring kiss of grace.

I want to be inside the park to make great friends, have fun, and play.

To be vulnerable, express love to others, and feel the love coming back.

I can’t tell you the number of passionate lovers in my park!

Yes, I know there is a fence, some group norms, but I want to know the friends in my playground.

Jesus was a religious rule breaker.

Jesus was a rule-breaker, well, at least the rules set up by man to codify what was right and wrong.

One Sabbath, Jesus was strolling with his disciples through a field of ripe grain. Hungry, the disciples were pulling off the heads of grain and munching on them.

Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: “Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!”

Jesus said, “Really? Didn’t you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry, how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat?

And didn’t you ever read in God’s Law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it’s not held against them?

“There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—‘I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual’—you wouldn’t be nitpicking like this.

The Son of Man is no yes-man to the Sabbath; he’s in charge.”

When Jesus left the field, he entered their meeting place. There was a man there with a crippled hand.

They said to Jesus, “Is it legal to heal on the Sabbath?” They were baiting him.

He replied, “Is there a person here who, finding one of your lambs fallen into a ravine, wouldn’t, even though it was a Sabbath, pull it out? Surely kindness to people is as legal as kindness to animals!”

Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out and it was healed. The Pharisees walked out furious, sputtering about how they were going to ruin Jesus. Matthew 12: 1-14 

Religion or Relationship?

In that passage of Jesus, what was more important? The following of the religion or the dance of relationship Jesus was part of.

When I am told I am religious, I feel like I am a movie screen, and people are projecting onto me all their views and opinions about religion.

My religion is not so much about following the rules; it’s more about being in a relationship. And in the relationship, good things happen.

The religious rules become the background to the deeper relationship that is happening.

Where you focus, you will go.

When I focus on the fence, I lose focus on the relationship offered in the playground. I disconnect from the ones I am to be in a relationship with.

I stop smelling roses when I start inspecting the flaky paint on the wire.

I stop enjoying the sun streaming down when I am stooping to dig dirt for a new and even stronger fence.

Looking at the fence is hard work. But playing on the swing is fun.

Where is your religion taking you?

Is the realignment reconnecting you with something bigger than yourself?

Mental Health and Religion

Religion has a lot to offer our mental health—that realignment and reconnection to something healthy and whole.

I also know that religion can bring a great deal of unwellness to people—anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, fear to name but a few.

So what does a healthy religion for our mental health look like?

Dr. David Benner suggests there are six markers of healthy spirituality.

    1. Grounded in Reality, seeing things as they are.
    2. Awareness
    3. Hopeful openness
    4. Loving connectedness
    5. Transcendent meaningfulness
    6. Capacity for love, work, and play

Is your place of reconnection and realignment growing these in you?

I’m Not Religious but I Have A Religion. Let’s dance.

Quotes to consider
  • The essential function of religion is to radically connect us with everything. (Re-ligio = to re-ligament or reconnect.) It is to help us see the world and ourselves in wholeness, and not just in parts. Richard Rohr The Universal Christ
  • To the Jewish person, and to all of us who have inherited their wisdom, there was one face that we looked to for mirroring, one face that we keep returning to for validation and definition, the face of God. Healthy religion creates very healthy people. Richard Rohr Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
  • Symbolism, however, always reconnects what has been thrown apart. This probably explains why healthy religion (“re-ligio”=bind back together), throughout history, gives us symbols, images of reconciliation, that heal, that put together what has been taken apart. Richard Rohr Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections
  • Religious beliefs, and the accompanying sense of belonging within a community that shares the monopoly on the truth those beliefs appear to represent, feed a basic need of the ego. The ego needs to feel special. It does this by making distinctions that set it apart from others. Possessing the truth and belonging to the small circle of those that share this distinction is like a hit of crack cocaine to the fragile ego. It feels incredibly good. It wraps the vulnerable ego in a luxurious soft fabric that makes it feel warm, comfortable and substantial. But, like a bandage wrapped too tightly around a wound, it cuts us off from our essential vitality. After all, what need is there for further becoming if you already exclusively possess the full truth! David Benner
  • Religions lose their way when they focus primarily on the transmission and defence of beliefs and the cultivation of belonging that occurs around these circles of belief. Christians also do this when they settle for beliefs rather than personal knowing. They do this when they worship Jesus rather than following the path he lived and taught. Faith, which should enable them to walk the path, becomes reduced to agreement with propositions. David Benner
  • In my view, Christianity lost its way when it settled for being a religion rather than the transformational path that I am convinced was what Jesus came to teach, live, and offer the world. And as a result, Christianity is on the verge of irrelevance to spiritual seekers, both within and outside the church. David Benner
Questions to answer
  1. What is your gut reaction when someone says the word ‘religion’?
  2. Is your focus more on the fence line or on the playground? What feels safer?
  3. Where did you have your first kiss of love?
Further reading

Is Taking A Spiritual Bypass Harming Your Mental Health?

Barry Pearman

Photo by Leon Liu on Unsplash

Jul 14, 2021
Listen. You’re on Sacred Ground
14:30

There was a single tear, and I knew we were on sacred ground, but there was a decision to be made. I chose to linger and listen.

I was talking with a man in his eighties the other day when I noticed a tear forming in his eye. I knew that this was one of those moments.

One of those times where you mustn’t rush past. There was an invitation to a stop and be quiet.

It was a tender moment. A time of standing on what I call ‘sacred ground’ where the other drifts, ponders and reflects on the storied waves of life.

I dare not interrupt where Spirit was dancing him into.

It was only for about 10 seconds, maybe not even that, but then he spoke about loss—the loss of deep friendships and relationships. Opportunity lost to connect with at least one other man. To have a friend.

He talked about his observation that women seem to have more friends and deeper relationships. There was grief and that he had not had this.

And then we moved on. Perhaps we will come back to it one day.

The sacred ground of us

I have been to many places that might have the term ‘Sacred Ground’ attached to them.

It might be a place where some act of religious significance occurred. It could be a place of pilgrimage. Maybe even be a sports arena or stadium where someone achieved some great sporting feat.

We connect ‘Sacred ground’ with the words  of ‘This is where … happened.’

But I also believe that there can be ‘sacred ground’ moments within our conversations. A moment in a conversation where we could say ‘This is where … happened.’

Moments where a space opens up for silence and listening. An invite to intimacy (In-to-me-see) is quietly given.

Have you noticed these?

People are scared of sacred ground.

But people often are scared when they touch the outskirts of a sacred space. ‘Shields up’ and alarm sirens wail.

They back off, divert to other topics.

Avoid, avoid, avoid.

The brain, in all its hardwired self-protective goodness, shouts ‘This sacred ground feels like quicksand that could swallow me up.’

But sacred places are the places where the pivot of change happens.

The warmth of a burning bush

There is a story in the bible about a sacred space conversation.

It happened around a fire.

A desert bush was ablaze, but the strangest thing was that the bush wasn’t turning to ash.

It was fully alive with fire, and this drew some attention from a wandering shepherd called Moses.

Moses was shepherding the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the west end of the wilderness and came to the mountain of God, Horeb. The angel of God appeared to him in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away, but it didn’t burn up.

Moses said, “What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

God saw that he had stopped to look. God called to him from out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” 

He said, “Yes? I’m right here!” 

God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.” Exodus 3:1-6

I think of my conversation, and the desire in me to come closer, dig deeper, ask questions and push the story on. Yet the best choice was not to come closer but actually to remove my sandals and be silent.

You need to take your sandals off.

Many people have conjectured as to why Moses had to remove his sandals. Sure he was instructed to because this was ‘Holy Ground,’ but why?

I want to offer a suggestion.

I wear footwear all the time in the garden. Boots, shoes, sandals are all worn to protect my feet from connection to the earth. Without that layer of material my feet would get dirty, and possibly harmed by thorns and stones.

I wear shoes to protect myself, to keep something between myself and potential harm.

I wonder if God was saying …

I don’t want anything to come between yourself and the dirt and dustiness of this place. I want you to connect fully with the earth of this experience. Have no crafted, man-made structure that acts as a barrier.

The sacred ground has an invite to dig your toes into it.

There is a vulnerability to this moment, and you need to be part of it.

What’s it like to walk barefooted on soil?

In that sacred moment

We so often rush to fill the void when someone exposes pain. It makes us uncomfortable.

Let’s fix their problem. Here is some good advice that they need to take I can save them from that They need to be straightened out

You might also swing to your favorite space-filling therapeutic technique. Perhaps, if you’re a counselor, therapist, spiritual director, pastor, you’ve been taught what to do in these moments. To follow such and such practice.

In these moments of sacred ground, you need to walk carefully, tenderly, quietly.

Take your sandals off, as such, and feel your own vulnerability and what rises in you.

This is a moment to wait and watch.

Watch for where they go. Are they running away from the sacred ground, or are they wanting to dig their toes in with you.

If they run, perhaps a gentle question that asks about their sacred ground is needed.

A reassurance that running and avoidance are normal, but that the sacred ground has an invite to depth.

The sacred ground has answers that our heart needs to hear.

Of course, God is in the business of bringing us to burning bushes. Moments of grabbing our attention and pulling us aside to commune.

One Emmaus many Damascus

I’ve recently been reading Job and the Mystery of Suffering by Richard Rohr.

A quote that grabbed my attention was this.

Conversion, which is forever refining the most intimate nature of our experience, is a long, long process. More a long road to Emmaus than a one-time road to Damascus.

I immediately thought of those two roads.

The Emmaus road, where two followers of Jesus walked and talked out the mystery of what had just happened in Jerusalem. Then someone (Jesus) joined them and answered their questions.

The Damascus road where Saul traveled with a hatred and murderous intent to kill people much like our pilgrims on the Emmaus road. Jesus joined him too, with an explosion of light. So much light that it threw him to the soil beneath his feet.

Perhaps on our Emmaus road journey of conversion- ‘which is forever refining the most intimate nature of our experience’ – we also have Damascus rd experiences.

They may not always be as dramatic as Saul experienced but might be classified as little Damascus rd moments. Micro burning bush, sacred ground, sandal shedding, times.

Those millimeter moments that invite us to pause and pivot. Times, like I experienced in the conversation, where my friend was invited to sacred ground.

Those early followers of Jesus walking home to Emmaus had many small little Damascus rd events where they had their thinking gently challenged and redirected.

They were walking on sacred ground and didn’t even know it until the end of their journey. Then they realized how their ‘hearts had burned within them.’

That’s what happens when you encounter a burning bush that doesn’t turn to ash.

Praying for the sacred ground

I am praying that I might see more of those conversational sacred ground moments.

Those little instants where you know Spirit is dancing and weaving into the conversation.

Perhaps there might be more tears—times where I notice the movement in conversation to a place of it being sacred.

I hope I don’t rush it or invade it.

Instead, the invite is to linger and listen. Love does that.

Quotes to consider
  • God’s healing has more to do with learning to worship than it does with getting life fixed. Craig Barnes
  • The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
  • Good work is relational, and its outcomes depend on what we are able to evoke from each other. Parker J. Palmer
  • It is usually most helpful to ask questions that are more about the person than about the problem. Parker J. Palmer 
Questions to answer
  1. Have you noticed those ‘sacred ground’ moments in conversations?
  2. Why do we rush to solve a problem?
  3. When have you entered a personal ‘sacred ground,’? That place where memories swirl and time drifts to uncomfortable places. What is your response? Run, take off your sandals, listen?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

Jul 07, 2021
A Time to Grieve and A Time to Prepare
16:10

Grief and loss are always on the horizon, but we can prepare to grieve well. This can help with the grief we are carrying now.

I am pruning roses at the moment.

It’s winter here in New Zealand as I write this post, and one of my tasks every winter for the last seven years has been to prune around 120 roses in a beautiful country garden.

The property is being sold, so this will most likely be the last time I prune, cut, and snip away at these old beauties.

I probably won’t see the blooms next summer.

There is a small heaviness in my heart.

I have enjoyed tending and caring for not just the roses but the fruit trees, the large magnolia trees, the camellias, and much much more.

The garden, when I took over, was in a state of disrepair. But with love and care over many seasons, it has developed a new life.

I fear that new owners may not care for both the soil and soul of the garden. But I am a steward of this season in its life.

It’s a relationship I have with wood, wind, and water—Sun, compost, and worms.

I am grieving, and I am preparing for grief.

I have grief in me. We all do.

Do you sit well with loss?

There is a time to grieve.

What if we were to say that there is a time for you to grieve. To say, ‘this is the moment for you to feel the loss.’

That sounds a bit mechanical and logical and engineered.

It also sounds quite defined. Like you can only grieve between these times, and after that, then you should be over it.

Grief doesn’t work like that, though. It can sweep up on you and catch you unawares. It can’t and won’t be controlled. Try and control it, and it will pop up somewhere else.

All great spirituality is about what we do with our pain. If we do not transform our pain, we will transmit it to those around us. Richard Rohr

We all, I believe, need a place, a time, and a person that says, ‘It’s ok to grieve.’

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes speaks to the naturalness of weeping and mourning.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance Ecclesiastes 3:4

Weeping is as natural to life as laughter. Mourning is as natural as dancing.

It’s normal, natural, to be expected. It’s not to be avoided or diminished.

There is a time to feel the loss, and that is ok.

We needn’t fear negative emotions.

The feminine noun

Digging a little deeper into the passage from Ecclesiastes, we see that the Hebrew word used for time is ‘eth,’ and it is a feminine noun.

There is a softness to this expression of time. There is a proper, suitable time for everything.

It’s the welcoming embrace for when the moment is right to be in that place.

It’s not on a schedule or a timetable.  The grief moment is not organized to arrive at this train scheduled time. But more so, it’s a knowing that this season will come and go.

There is an official day when winter begins, but we all know that winter starts when it starts, and spring comes when it comes.

So we don’t rush this process. ‘Eth’ has a time of its own accord.

The pendulum swings

As I write this, I have a grandfather clock ticking away in my background.

It has a large pendulum swinging away inside of it. Back and forth, back and forth, the arc of the ball swings.

It keeps the clock ticking.

Swinging in and out.

I have noticed this about my grief load too, I swing in and out.

I have lost people to me and felt the pendulum’s swing seemingly sit in the dark zone, and then it swings away. A memory swings me back but maybe not so far. Not so deep. Over time the swings don’t go so far in and not so severe.

There is no perpetual motion machine of grief.

But I wonder what keeps some people’s grief pendulum swinging so deep for so long? Perhaps the answer is to be found in our understanding of forgiveness – ourselves and others.

Prepare for grief

How does one prepare for grief?

That’s a strange question because I think we all, to some degree, carry a load of grief with us at all times.

Those little losses, the hurts, the job redundancies, the deaths, the missed opportunities, the failing health, the words we wanted to say someone but now can’t. The broken relationships.

We all carry something that, at times, can feel overwhelming.

Here are some guidelines to prepare for grief.

 1. Be ok with not knowing what the grief will look like. I really don’t know what it will be like not to have this garden in my weekly life. It’s an unknown. I wonder what I will miss the most. What will get triggered in me when I think of the roses.

Thorns or fragrance?

There is an unknowing to much of life, and we have to sit in the mystery of wondering what will come next.

The only thing I can be assured of is that I will not be alone in it.

Jesus, in grief load moment, invited his friends into his garden of Gethsemane. So I’m going to be ok with the pendulum swings.

 2. Keep the good memories alive Over the years, I have taken photos of the garden. Different seasons bring different perspectives.

As I grieve, I will also celebrate the blessing and the gift of that time and place: thorns and fragrance.

Where you focus, you will go.

3. Forgiving the failings We live in a world where mistakes and bad choices happen. It’s part of the tapestry of life.

I try to live with a short accounts book. I don’t want to be a bookkeeper holding tightly to a ledger of rights and wrongs, so I try to forgive myself and others quickly.

One of the little affirmations I have each day is, ‘I am discounting my mistakes before they discount me.’

Grief can so easily become a swirling whirlpool of regrets. A central vortex can appear that sucks you down and away from reality.

Forgiveness can begin by letting the little fish go.

4. Talking it out with someone safe Sharing the load, sharing the loss, being vulnerable and open about a particular memory moment.

This is an Emmaus walk where we talk about the mystery of loss out with a friend.

We don’t want anyone to F.A.S.S. (Fix. Advise. Save. Set one straight). Instead, we want someone to sit with us and invite the stories of both thorns and fragrance.

 

We all have a suitcase of grief. Is yours heavy or light? Perhaps as we learn to prepare for the pendulum swings, it will help with what we are carrying now.

Quotes to consider
  • Conversion, which is forever refining the most intimate nature of our experience, is a long, long process. More a long road to Emmaus than a one-time road to Damascus. Richard Rohr. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
  •  When we fail we are merely joining the great parade of humanity that has walked ahead of us and will follow after us. Richard Rohr
  • Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real
  • In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience—our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” Brené Brown The Gifts of Imperfection
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey
Questions to consider
  1. How do you prepare for grief? What are the lessons it has to offer you?
  2. It’s a season, a time, a period, a pendulum swing. Which image connects best with you when you consider loss?
  3. What are the qualities of a person that is safe for you to share your grief?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Jun 30, 2021
Am I Worthy of Love?
14:08

Life can wear us down, and we question if we are worthy of love. But we need to look to a deeper story going on than feelings of the present.

It was gone. Something had gone from them. And they felt it.

No longer caring about their appearance, their diet, their health. Something deep in their existence had whispered away, or at least that’s how it felt to them.

‘Did they have worth?’ they wondered. And especially were they worthy of love and self-care?

They couldn’t see anything of love or worth in themselves. Others seemed to show scant regard for them too.

They wondered if they died today would anyone come to the funeral. Would anyone say anything?

What worth would be attributed to them?

Worth is 

Worth is such a value-based measurement. So how can you measure one’s worth?

Some measure it by dollars, some by fame. Then there are the medals of achievement, contribution to society, raising a family.

Do younger people have more worth than older people?

Do certain lives #matter or have more worth than others?

How do you measure worth? How do you measure your own worth?

And what about God? How does God measure one’s worth?

But there is Amando

I remember a story from Larry Crabb in his book Becoming a True Spiritual Community.

There once was a small eight-year-old boy called Amando. Small because he had been abandoned by his mother and was dying from the lack of food. Amando wasn’t able to walk, talk or eat by himself. In addition, he had a severe mental disability.

In an orphanage, he found people who loved him and held him, and as they did, he gradually began to eat again and develop.

But when carers picked him up, his whole body would ‘quiver with joy and excitement and say, “I love you.”

Amando was a lover. 

What was his worth?

In our worldy measurement of success, fame, and value, perhaps he had no value.

But to those that held him and knew him, there was a worth that kind of celebrated true love. It was like the Christ shining through his eyes.

Amando’s shake the familiar world of worth that is based on human-based values.

Worthy of love

If I was to ask you and many others if you are worthy of love, then I am sure that I would get many well thought out logic-based answers.

Many of my Christian friends would cite scriptures and give theological answers. Books would be given to read.

Yet, good as all this is, it can leave me cold.

No one has gone to the heart, which can be like a dry, empty well.

The heart can only be entered through deep listening, not logic and law.

Perhaps you’ve been cast out of the group because of a spot on the skin – leper.

Maybe stones are being picked up to throw at you until you die.

And you pick times to come out into town so that you can avoid meeting those nasty tongued neighbors. You go to draw water when no one else is around, but you meet a man.

Now he [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) John 4:6-9

Jesus cut through the conventions of worthiness. Instead, Jesus would associate, connect with, pour out love to anyone thirsty.

He himself was thirsty.

It’s a pretty simple thing to give someone a drink of water isn’t it. To lower a jug into a well and draw some droplets.

I’m not sure she ever got to do this because, well, a conversation began. Perhaps the words exchanged swept them both into a moment of refreshing delight that expressed the worthiness of love.

She saw in Jesus an ‘Amando’ delight flowing towards her.

Your worth

How do you measure your worth, your worthiness to receive?

Have you done enough yet? Have you ticked all the boxes?

Perhaps you need to crush the conventions of worthiness.

Those rules and social norms that express whether someone is on the inside or the outside. Those messages from religious church experiences that you’re a worm and a wretch. The parental put-downs that still haunt you like ghosts.

I like to look under the skin.

There is something of deep value and beauty under everyone’s facade. It’s there, but you have to give focused listening attention to see its glimmers.

Then it invites you to fall in love with the source.

The person may not see it themselves—that special quality, giftedness, movement, a talent that needs to be endorsed and validated.

But it’s the sparkle in Amando’s eye and the shiver of excitement that shouts, ‘I love you.’

Getting soaked in worth

Imagine yourself taking a long hot shower.

You sit there, stand there, you allow it to pour over until you feel it shaking something deep inside.

You quiet yourself until you feel the water flowing over every portion of your body—a massaging of droplets hitting the skin.

That is what knowing your worth is like. Love working into the crevices of your thinking so that old conventions of worth and value are replaced by truth. You are loved and have worth.

You come back to this shower time and time again because some of those old ways of thinking take time to be washed away.

Are you worthy of love? Yes, you are.

Perhaps we all need Amando’s like you to sparkle and shiver.

Quotes to consider
  • No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love. Henri Nouwen The inner voice of love
  • When you are overcome by self-doubt and self-criticism, the tiniest bit of understanding feels like a full body massage. Rohr, Richard. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
  • In the spiritual life it’s much more important to know how to listen than to know how to talk. Rohr, Richard. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
  • If how we feel each morning depends on whether people are nice to us, if we can’t be happy without outside approval, we’re not really happy or fundamentally free. Happiness is finally an inside job.We are too often “reeds swaying in the breeze” (Matt. 11:7), dependent moment by moment on others’ reaction and approval. This is the modern self: insubstantial, whimsical, totally dependent and calling itself “free.” Rohr, Richard. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
Questions to consider
  1. What were some early childhood messages you received about worth and worthiness?
  2. What is worth?
  3. There is an Amando sparkle inside you. What would it be like for someone else to discover it and endorse its value?
Further reading

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Jun 24, 2021
Women need respect as much as men
10:50

When I feel respect, I feel valued, and I know I am loved.  Respect is about love. It is love in action. Women need respect as much as men.

In 2004 a book by Christian writer Dr. Emerson Eggerich was released.  It was Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. The book became very popular in fundamentalist and evangelical church circles. Eggerich and his wife Sarah became big on the Christian speaking circuit in America, and any copies of the book were sold.

The book is built upon the theory that the “primary emotional needs” for men and women are that men need respect and women need love.

Just like they need air to breathe, apparently. Get this right, and a healthy marriage is sure to ensue, the author promises. 

When this book first came out, it featured at the Christian bookshop we frequently attended, and we bought it.  It seemed true enough.

Several years later, another couple at the church we were attending thought so too.  So much so that they purchased a carton of these books and made them available to whoever wanted a copy.

Whether the would-be reader could afford it or not, they graciously accepted whatever was paid or let the would-be reader have it for free. 

At the time, I remember that it was a topic that my husband certainly identified with.  He knew respect was a major issue for him, and I thought, what woman doesn’t just want to be loved?  

Roll on 10 or 15 years, and I’ve learned more.

Here I am now, in another town, in a new decade and with quite a different way of looking at life. As a result, I no longer agree with the premise of the book. In fact, I think it can be damaging to relationships and might even lead to abuse.

Women need respect as much as men.

One thing I’ve learned is that women need respect as much as men.  Indeed, we all need respect, and we’re all deserving of respect.  And it probably goes without saying that we all need love. It’s not a case of one or the other.

It has become abundantly clear in our present society that disrespect for women is rampant.

It’s probably always been there, covered over by societal norms and not spoken about out loud.   And maybe it’s the same for men, although the way to get it is not by asserting it must be given.  Demanding respect is not likely to get you what you are asking. It could even cause the opposite; disrespect.

What is disrespect?

What is disrespect?

Words and phrases like belittled, not valued, dismissed, not considered, not worthy of time, attention, money spent, snubbed, cast aside, overlooked, and offended all relate to disrespect. 

None of them in themselves truly incorporate that feeling nor do full justice to that awareness of being considered inferior and not worthy of even taking a little effort.  

Respect is often in the small things; it’s in the repeated things.

The stepping back to allow someone to go through the door first. Or holding said door open for me.

The please and thank-yous that we take for granted.  It’s even in those things that aren’t even noticed or regarded, considered so trivial not to be worthy of attention. 

The picking your dirty dishes up and putting them in the sink. Not leaving your belongings scattered around the house. 

Those seemingly little things are often not considered worthy of an attempt at change. 

Furthermore, disrespect is often noted in people from whom we would expect so much more. Partners, loved ones, children, and extended family; we can all be guilty of it.

Those professionals we pay large sums of money to who leave us sitting in their waiting rooms until they are good and ready and to the ones we engage in simple transactions who can’t be bothered to give eye contact.

The people we sit next to on public transport or drive past in our cars.  All are worthy of respect, and all are capable of giving respect.

What does disrespect actually feel like?

So, what does disrespect actually feel like?

I have been asked that question recently.  Now I have to dig deep to find the words.  We’re so used to brushing it aside. 

A shrug and ‘oh, it doesn’t matter.’

But, hold on – it does matter, and sometimes it gets through and gets under our skin.  Or builds up until we explode.  And even then, we quickly clean up and cover up our shame at being disrespected.

It’s not a nice feeling, what more can I say? It sucks, actually. 

Lately, as I’ve been doing my personal work and bravely opening up my heart to scrutiny, I’ve felt it.

In fact, recently, I was shocked by the level of fury and rage in me when confronted with several issues to do with lack of respect.

So I have dared myself to feel difficult feelings by taking out the self-judgment and criticism and extending compassion to myself the way I would to a friend.

I’ve learned to ‘sit with unbearable feelings’ and listen.  And I’ve been able to process it enough to find other words.

And then there is respect. 

And then there is respect—such a beautiful feeling.

One of those commonplace treasures in life that we often fail to see and thereby take for granted.

What does ‘being respected’ feel like? Again, it’s a tricky one to describe, but we know it when we experience it.  It’s somewhere in the being noticed, in the being acknowledged. 

It’s a feeling of I’m okay, maybe even more than that; they see my uniqueness and my individuality.  That person has seen me and has deemed me worthy of a little time, maybe just a second or two.

It goes on from there; it’s the person who seeks out my opinion, takes time to be with me; to really listen, who doesn’t interrupt or talk over me; they do want to know what I think.

The person who speaks highly of me.   It’s the kindness shown. Maybe they know that I’m tired and my back is aching; maybe they just want to be kind to me without reason.

It’s a good feeling, a good nourishing feeling.  ‘I’m okay, they’re okay,’ and the world isn’t just a bad place after all.  

When I feel respect, I feel valued, and I know I am loved.  Respect is about love. It is love in action. And we all need it.

Quotes to consider
  • I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or president of the university.  Albert Einstein
  • Respect yourself, and others will respect you.  Confucious
  • Be beautiful if you can, wise if you want, but be respected – that is essential.  Anna Gould
  • Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other person, sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control the other person or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not. I think this applies as much to parent-child relationships as to husband-wife relationships. Love is not all you need, nor all your wife or husband needs, and certainly not all your children need. We all need respect, especially from those who are closest and most intimately connected with us. Peter Gray PhD
Questions to answer
  1. When did you last feel respected/disrespected? What did it feel like?
  2. Is it true that respect has to be earned?  Why or why not?
  3. Do people need to be deserving of respect to gain our respect?
Further reading

 

By Susanna Warner Susanna lives on a small farm in Central Victoria, Australia, where she and her husband have 3 alpacas and a small flock of black-faced Suffolk ewes.

These days she has a bit more time to reflect on her decades as a Registered Nurse, and Mental Health Nurse and her many encounters with people struggling with inner health and how applying healthy spiritual concepts can help.

She enjoys writing and putting her musings into words and hopes these will help hurting hearts.

Photo by Axel Vazquez on Unsplash

Jun 16, 2021
It’s the Words You Say that will Steer your life
19:07

Their life was like a ship heading for the rocks, but with new words and affirmations, the ship slowly began to steer in a new direction. Thoughts change when we take charge.

‘Bitch.’

That was the word on the pendant necklace hanging around her neck. I was visiting her at her temporary home. Temporary because this was the psych ward.

She was in there because she wanted to kill herself.

I wondered if any of the psychiatrists and mental health people would challenge her on the words that hung around her neck. I hoped so.

Then again, we live in such a politically correct, super sensitive, non-directive world that maybe no one would say a thing.

I told her that she wasn’t a bitch, and having that word hung around her neck was having a corrosive effect on her soul.

Every day she had it around her neck. It reinforced a thinking track, a rut, a groove. Every day that path got deeper and deeper.

The power of a word to steer

What’s a word that has been worked and ruminated into your subconscious?

Maybe it’s a word that was spoken at you from a very young age, and you have adopted it as your own: parents, siblings, schoolyard bullies, to name but a few options with cursing tongues.

Then you have nurtured that little word, kept repeating it, and every time you made a mistake or stumbled, it confirmed the ‘truth’ of that word for you.

Then you added a few other words. The super-powerful words of ‘I am.’

You created an affirmation. You were firming up the word to be part of your identity.

  • I am stupid
  • I am a bitch
  • I am an idiot
  • I am a failure
  • I am a fool
  • I am a _____ (name your poisoned words)

It’s those little words that we probably don’t say out loud, but instead, we whisper them in our souls.

We have done this all our lives, and now they are so ingrained that they feel like facts.

Affirmations of truth

He was so secure in his identity that he was rock solid. He was and is the great ‘I am.’

What Jesus said about himself

  • ‘I am the bread of life.’John 6:35
  • ‘I am the way.’ John 14:6
  • ‘I am the truth.’ John 14:6
  • ‘I am the life.’ John 14:6
  • ‘I am the vine.’ John 15:1
  • ‘I am the good shepherd.’ John 10:11
  • ‘I am the door.’  John 10:9
  • ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’  John 11:25

Jesus knew himself. His identity was secure, and it rattled the world.

Jesus knew his identity and shared it to reassure us about the invite he offers to us.

We have a door we can go through, a shepherd to follow, a vine to draw from, a light to shed on our path, a hope, and a future, a daily bread to be nourished from.

Jesus didn’t need to use affirmations to firm us his identity, but we need to. We doubt and get storm-tossed. Our brain is not perfect.

We are in transformation mode.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Romans 12:2

I need to keep telling myself my truest God-granted identity.

The disputing word ‘Yet.’

Some words in our English language act like a pivot, a hinge, a turning point. They offer a change in direction.

Words such as ‘and’ and ‘but.’

I think one other is the word ‘yet.’ It is a conjunction.

‘Yet’ says ‘I know how this is at the moment, but I will look at things differently, choose a different path.’

It’s a word that can be used to dispute our current thinking track. To challenge our beliefs and feelings, and thoughts with alternatives.

That is the way it was used by a guy called Habakkuk

Though the fig tree does not bud     and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails     and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen     and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord,     I will be joyful in God my Savior. Habakkuk 3:17-18

I want to dispute the struggle I am in with the larger story of God’s eternal goodness to me.

Life can be tough – fig trees not budding, no grapes, olive crops failing, failures in the field, and the sheep pen and cattle stalls empty – yet I am going to still trust.

There is a larger story going on. One that I’m not fully aware of but I am part of.

When I use the word ‘yet,’ it is a choice to take the road less traveled.

It’s easy to travel down the road of ‘I am stupid’ because I have done it all my life. It’s familiar, comfortable, well worn, but it will always take me to the same old place.

The road less traveled requires a ‘Yet I will’ siding against my old familiar thinking tracks. To steer into a new direction.

It’s going to feel awkward, strange, a ‘waste of time.’ There will be a resistance you run into as you push against the gravity of the stinky thinky.

From ‘Bitch’ to ‘Blessed’

I wonder what would have happened in the woman I mentioned earlier if she had taken the ‘Bitch’ pendant off and replaced it with a ‘Blessed’ pendant.

That every time she had feelings and thoughts of being a bitch, she would have disputed the lies.

‘I know that my thoughts and feelings of being a bitch come from an old life, yet I am telling myself the truth that I am blessed.’

We have to take responsibility for the thinking paths we travel along.

Daily I am affirming Gods firming words about me into my thinking. This flows into my actions.

Steering the ship of your thoughts

Imagine yourself standing behind the helm or steering wheel of a huge old sailing ship.

You control this huge ship, and the captain says to come around to bearing 185 degrees.

You look down to the compass and slowly turn the huge wheel in a new direction. Ropes move under the deck, and the rudder alters and changes.

There is resistance against the change. Push back. You have to keep hold and steer that wheel in that new direction. Even more so when there is a storm around you.

After a little while, the ship moves in this new direction that you have set.

Changing your life takes time.

That old ship of your life takes time to come around to your new direction. You hold the wheel against the resistance of all your previous thinking courses.

It’s you taking responsibility for you.

It’s building a thinking compass that will hold and steer you to a new and better course.

Are you like a ship heading for the rocks?

Maybe you want to change direction, feel the pull to a new course.

With new words and affirmations, your ship will slowly begin to steer in a new direction. Thoughts change when we take charge.

Quotes to consider
  • The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. [This] shades “implicit memory” – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction. Rick Hanson
  • Believing all of my emotions is the shortest way into the loop of insanity. First the truth, then faith in the truth, then the feelings will come around.  David Riddell
  • In order to oppose the influence and direction of one’s old feelings, a rational mind first needs a very good reason. Without truth to reassure, change isn’t possible. David Riddell
  • It’s not enough to simply read the truth, it must be allowed to ‘sink in.’ If truth doesn’t saturate, change remains cosmetic. David Riddell
  • The truth will set you free to enter heaven, but first, it will hurt like hell. First the pain, then the gain. First the death, then the resurrection. David Riddell
  • Don’t try to dispel a wrong belief. Rather displace it with a better insight. It’s only the truth that can set us free. David Riddell
  • If you only tolerate ideas that agree with your existing beliefs, how will you ever discover new truth or identify your own blind spots? David Riddell
  • To achieve radical change, I need to call some of my feelings ‘liars’ and choose to side with the truth against my own emotions until my feelings come around. David Riddell
  • Your mistaken beliefs are your real enemy and will continue to cause you pain until you find and embrace the needed truth. David Riddell
  • In order to oppose the influence and direction of one’s old feelings, a rational mind first needs a very good reason. Without truth to reassure, change isn’t possible. David Riddell
  • Your concept of yourself can oppose God’s ability to help you. He cannot violate it to change you without raping your identity. Eventually, we must go to Him to discover who we are. David Riddell
  • Give yourself the identity you actually aspire to, not the identity you automatically adopted before you were old enough to know better, then ‘fake it ’till you make it. David Riddell
Questions to consider
  1. Have you got a word that you repeatedly say to yourself that needs to go? What would be a better, more truthful word that you could replace it with?
  2. How can you incorporate the word ‘Yet’ into your daily thinking and prayer life?
  3. Steering the ship of your life takes focused and purposeful effort. What is a simple daily affirmation that you can speak to yourself that will shift the rudder and move your life?
Further reading

No More Lies. Stay Grounded in Reality

You’re Not a Problem. It’s Not Who You Are

Barry Pearman

Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker on Unsplash

Jun 11, 2021
When The Little One Stumbles
16:37

We have all been a little one, a child, and we stumble, but we can grow from the stumbles, and we can learn new truth and find new hope.

I’ve heard many stories of abuse, but some of the worst are when subtle little lies have, with organized precision, been sewn into a child’s life. It’s evil.

Knowing the vulnerability of a child’s mind to learning and absorbing new information and behaviors, someone has, with malicious intent, corrupted a mind made in the image of God. Those lies take root and grow into deformed thinking and behaviors far from God’s intended delight.

I’ve seen adults with low IQ, intellectually challenged and disabled, being taken advantage of because of their child-like naivety. It was repugnant and evil. I called the Police, but nothing could be done.

Then there is another kind of abuse—the one where the child receives messages from another hurting human. Hurt people hurt people. The child hears the messages – verbal and non-verbal and believes them as truth.

Words that couldn’t be taken back and words that dug deep into the soul of that little child.

A thinking track is laid down in the child’s mind. A small little tiny microscopic pathway, and then the next day, another abuse is added to the brain.

This neurological pathway in the brain is gaining strength. That soft, malleable brain takes its cues from the environment around it and shapes its pathways according to what it’s been told.

Stumbling blocks and Millstones

When the followers of Jesus wanted to know who was the greatest, the one who got the pride of place position at the table, Jesus turned their earthly kingdom thoughts of achievement upside down. He still does.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks!

Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! Matthew 18:1-7

Everyone one of us has taken a stumble. Jesus said they ‘are bound to come.’

My little two-year-old granddaughter took a nasty fall the other day and hurt her head. She was playing on a small plastic slide and fell from the top of the slide onto the floor.

She was crying, and her parents comforted her. After a little while, she got back up and quietly got back into life.

I wonder what she learned? Maybe that this world is not as safe as she once thought it was.

My daughter and her husband didn’t maliciously set up the slide with the intent of her falling. It was an accident, but they felt bad for what had happened. They could have prevented it by not having a slide, not allowing her to try new things.

Wrapping people in cotton wool chokes out the discovery of life.

That delightful two old will have many other stumbles in her life, but woe to anyone who sets out to cause her to stumble.

Where has the little one stumbled

I think we all have stumbled and fallen. Something has tripped us up. Hopefully not with malicious intent, but we have all tripped up in our thinking somewhere along the line.

We heard one thing and interpreted it possibly in a manner that it wasn’t intended to be understood, especially by God.  We have interpreted the experience in the most obvious childlike way.

Children are excellent recorders of their experiences but poor interpreters. David Riddell

Some time ago, I watched a teacher berate a child within their care. It was, to be blunt, a shaming exercise and spoke more about the angry world within the teacher’s thinking than about the slight misdemeanor of the child.

But I wonder if the child took the abuse to heart, whether it added on top of any other experiences of being told they stupid.

We all have bad hair days, but we need to be aware that explosions spill over to others and trigger responses in them.

Willing to become a little one

If there is a consistent barrier that I have come across in helping people, it is the resistance to becoming like a child and examining and reinterpreting early life experiences in the light of God’s truth about us.

I think it has something to do with not wanting to admit to ourselves and others that we got it wrong. Or that someone has wronged us.

We would much rather fix the now, but those earliest conclusions will echo and ghost us until we give them a reason for them not to be around. This requires self-examination, work, the forgiveness of self and others, and being open to new truth.

It might mean we come face to face with how we have acted out of our own hurt, which has meant hurt for others. It might mean being honest with our own failings, not just on a surface level but on a level where we feel deep shame and guilt. As I say, it might just mean learning to forgive and have self-compassion.

Jesus said we have to become humble like a child.

Starting over as a little one

I would love to have a time machine to go back to certain times in my life where I stumbled in my thinking.

Where I misinterpreted what happened as a child and put a negative twist on something, and I started developing a thinking track that got deeper and deeper, stronger and stronger.

I want to become like a child again. To have my brain be like a sponge that is open and ready for the truth. I want to be a child in the presence of Jesus, the lover of children. Perhaps Jesus would talk about the many places where the stumbles happened, and seeds were sown into the thinking.

Becoming like a little child – simple, open, soft, and malleable. It’s being open to thinking differently about life. It’s seeing that some of your core beliefs were founded on stumbling moments. Moments that need a new understanding.

Just as when you were a little child, and you interpreted an event in a certain that led you off in a certain thinking track, it’s now time to interpret similar feeling events with new insights.

Rehearsing the truth

Children rehearse things until they get them right. They take a few steps and fall. Crawl a while; then they try again. That brain is laying out a new fiber network. They get back up on their feet and try to walk again. They practice and practice until they walk freely and easily. None of that crawling business anymore.

A child wants to learn to play the guitar. A few basic chords, a strum, and many repeated experiences can play a simple song. Eventually, with enough work and effort, they can play complex tunes.

What are the words you have been rehearsing through the network of your brain from an early age?

Your thinking compass

One of the ways I think Spirit (Holy) does this is that we are brought to places where the invite is given to explore our inner dialogue and story.

Our life gets interrupted by an event. It could be a sentence we hear, a quote, a verse of scripture, something someone says to us, a trauma.

If you’re listening, – Let anyone with ears listen!  ( listening is a spiritual practice), then you will learn to hear the whispers of Spirit saying, ‘This is for you.’

You take that seed of truth, and you nourish it, meditate on it, and grow it into your thinking. It becomes an antidote to the thinking that you stumbled over as a child.

You build it into your daily meditative life.

I have an audio version of my thinking compass that I listen to every day.

I am slowly and surely rewiring my brain. Removing the stumbling blocks and seeing my path clearer and cleaner than ever before.

Learning how to do this is part of my Dig Yourself Out of the Hole course

Stop the stumble

Do you keep stumbling over the same old tripping hazards?

Perhaps it’s time for you to pray and ask Spirit to illuminate your path, to point out the old ways that need new roadworks. It’s work, but it’s good work.

Quotes to consider
  • The daily debrief around the dinner table can prevent wrong conclusions taking root in a child’s heart. David Riddell
  • Children can grow into their labels. Distinguish between their worth, and their behavior when rebuke is called for. David Riddell
  • Labeling children is the most natural thing in the world. It is also the most destructive as the child grows into the label. How does ‘idiot’ help a child to think more clearly? David Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Where have you stumbled in your thinking?
  2. What rises up in you when you see someone being lead astray or having stumbling blocks and trip hazards put in their way?
  3. Why is there a resistance to becoming like a little one?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Jonathan Weiss on Unsplash

Jun 02, 2021
When the Lesser Dreams get Shattered
17:40

It was a dream, but now it was shattered. Perhaps a new dream was to be discovered, and so we dug deep into what truly mattered.

It was happening again. The dream was being shattered. The marriage was over, the pregnancy test was negative, a redundancy letter handed out, and unemployment was on the horizon. There, in the most honest place of the soul, was a loss of spirit, drive, beauty.

A few years ago, an acquaintance opened up a cheery conversation with me by saying the words ‘Living the dream?’. After some paused consideration, I humorously said, ‘Sometimes, and then at other times, it feels like I am walking a nightmare.’

Live life honestly, and you know that dreams get shattered.

Shattered

Shattered is an interesting word.

I think of a window and how a single little stone can hit the hard beautiful transparent surface and create a crack, then another crack, and then a thousand cracks spread from this impact point.

The glass loses its structural integrity; it bends and flexes and then crashes to the floor. A thousand million fragments of what was once oneness.

It’s gone, never to be seen again—a mess to be cleaned up somehow.

Grief, loss, mourning, anger, all appropriate and needed if we want to glean something good out of the shards and micro-glass dust.

Building your house of lower dreams

Jesus once told an interesting story of two house builders. Both had a dream home they were building. It was going to be their place of security, warmth, and investment. Their house expressed a personal signature about themselves. This was the house of Mary, and this was the house of Tom.

The big difference, though, was what the houses were built on. One house was built on sand, and the other was constructed on rock.

Jesus said it this way.

If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in, and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” Matthew 7:24-27

I have dreams for a better life than I have now.

A life where things go perfectly well. Great marriage, happy children, good income, fulfillment, acknowledgment, etc

I build my life around these dreams. I set goals,  work hard, read, manipulate, control and try to make things work the way I want them to.

I am building my house of cards, and actually, to be honest, it’s ugly.

Yes, it’s functional, acceptable to others, normal, boring, but there’s truly nothing of supernatural glory.

Then a storm begins to build. They always do. Rains beat down, and floodwaters rise, and the strength of that which I have built my little house on begins to be exposed.

The sand grains of collected foolishness begin to lose any sense of energized connection.

Dissolving away, I am exposed as a naked Adam and Eve. I try to cover up my vitals. Hands rush to hide.

Dreams shattered can leave us feeling shamed and exposed.

‘I was such a fool ever to trust again.’ ‘Why did I ever do that?’

Rock-solid dreams

In Larry Crabb’s book Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy, he writes this.

‘Through the pain of shattered lower dreams, we wake up to the realization that we want an encounter with God more than we want the blessings of life. And that begins a revolution in our lives.’ Larry Crabb 

You’re going to have dreams shattered. Your hopes will be hulled out.

Disappointment has unknown scheduled an appointment with you.

The ‘flower-strewn pathway’ has thorny roses, stinging wasps, invasive weeds, and moss slippery paving stones.

What I want more of

I was in a good conversation the other day.  It was rich with words and deep connection. We shared life.

The person I was listening to was sharing something of her life and struggles. She wanted to be heard. Something within her needed to be known and explored.

A few days later, she opened up even more and told me about her life as a child in a poor rural community. She was rich in experiences and how struggle had shaped her identity.

She had her share of shattered lesser dreams but now was growing in deeper dreams.

I have dreams of having deeper, richer conversations with people I care about. That’s a higher dream. One that excites me.

Beware of the dream merchant.

A dream merchant has probably conned you. I have been. They sell you a dream.

Here’s a definition I found.

A person, [such] as a moviemaker or advertiser, who panders to or seeks to develop the public’s craving for luxury, romance, or escapism.

I think that’s a bit too narrow, but it captures something of the essence of these spin merchants.

Essentially a dream merchant sells you a dream. It’s the promise of a better life if you do this or that. It’s the ‘promise in the year of election’ (U2 – Desire)

In the church world, it can be

    • a preacher passing out prosperity pills
    • healing hype and whipped up worship
    • studying the Bible for more knowledge but little knowing
    • told that attendance is next to godliness
    • formulas for a better marriage, family life, business

It’s building up a personal theology of believing God’s blessing (however you and the dream merchant define it) is just around the corner if you just do this and that. No faith, no mystery, just mechanics.

I taste heaven when I am in rich conversation with at least one other.

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. C.S. Lewis

Have you placed a second thing in a first place?

In practice

I’m currently creating a short course called ‘Dig yourself out of the hole.

Turning the Page attracts a lot of traffic from people in desperate situations.

They come looking for help related to the dark holes of depression. They’re suicidal. They come, read a few pages, then they’re gone. I hope and pray that something from the website helps them.

But I want to do more. I have so much more to share and help that I believe can help them out of their hole.

There is a dream merchant within me that fills me with dreams of helping thousands of people, making lots of money out of this ‘Pay what you want’ course, and changing the world!

That’s a second thing that my dream merchant wants to make a first thing. It’s a dream that’s lining up to be shattered.

Then there is another dream merchant, a poor but wise one (Ecclesiastes 9:13-16), that says do it for one and leave everything else up to God.

If my listening intent is on the dream merchant selling me fame and glory, I will lose focus on the wisdom offered through the discernment of the poor but wise dream merchant.

Ten lepers got healed by Jesus Luke 17:11-19, and only one connected to a greater story. The others had their lesser dreams fulfilled, one taped into something greater.

Some dreams need to be shattered, and I pray that God will smash any dreams that are not connected to God’s greater good for me.

Post shattered dreams

You’ve had dreams shattered. Things haven’t worked out the way you planned or hoped for.

How did you respond after the dream shattered into a million fragments?

Anger? Disappointment? Loss of trust in yourself, others, God?

Perhaps a ‘shaking of the fist’ at God?

Maybe a ‘dust yourself off’ attitude and then throwing yourself back into the fight.

Can I suggest that you ask yourself some deeply reflective questions?

    1. What is truly a ‘first thing’ for you?
    2. What are the ‘second things’?
    3. What were the deepest desires hidden under the dream that you held so dear?
    4. Who are the dream merchants you have been listening to?
    5. What dreams do you need to quietly relinquish a tight grasp of?
    6. What might come back to you if you simply let the ‘second things’ go and fly free?
    7. What is a dream that can only be received via some sort of supernatural God intervention?

Some dreams need to shatter to allow other dreams to come into view.

Quotes to consider
  • Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb
  • The greatest blessing is no longer the blessing of a good life. It never was. It is now the blessing of an encounter with God. It always has been. Larry Crabb Shattered Dreams
  • Our shattered dreams are never random. They are always a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story. Pain is a tragedy. But it’s never only a tragedy. For the Christian, it’s always a necessary mile on the long journey to joy. Larry Crabb Shattered Dreams
Questions to consider
  1. What dreams have been shattered for you?
  2. What did you learn from those experiences?
  3. How would you sit and support someone going through a shattered dream experience?
Further reading

Heart-Shattered Lives don’t for a Moment Escape God’s Notice

The God Who Enters My Shame

Barry Pearman

Photo by Jose Francisco Morales on Unsplash

May 27, 2021
You’re doing ok
11:57

Life can be tough at times, but to have someone come close and tell you that you’re doing ok can bring deep reassurance and a sense of being centered.

Sometimes you need to be told that you’re doing ok.

They were in a time in their life when it felt like they were in a bubbling cauldron of change. It was bubbling away, and life threw challenge after challenge at them. It was stressful, and they felt it in their body. They felt tired and needed a place to rest.

Then questions started to rise within their thinking.

Did they make the right decision? Perhaps they weren’t meant to be doing this? Maybe they don’t have what it takes?

Thoughts started to spiral downward. Depression and anxiety began to sneak in the back door.

I was watching my friend slowly and steadily lose their way off the path.

I reached out, placed my hand on their shoulder, and told them they were doing ok.

‘Am I really?’ was the response, but looking in my eyes and feeling the affirming touch of my hand, they knew that they weren’t alone.

You’re Doing Ok’

I think we all need people in our lives that can reassure us that were doing ok.

It’s the comparison game that can trip us up. We compare ourselves to others, or more likely to what others present to us.

We also compare ourselves to our younger years when we had all that energy and dreams and goals. Or it might be a comparison to some future years where we have dreams and aspirations but seemingly never come to be.

But to be ok, in this present moment as you read this, well, that is the secret.

We all need someone who can understand the story and appreciate the work of life.

Someone who can say, ‘I see you, I know you, I am with you, and you’re doing ok.’

This isn’t rocket science either. It doesn’t take much to offer the other person a ‘with you’ moment.

That ‘With you’ moment

There is one phrase that covers the whole story of the Bible. It’s part of the BIG STORY. The meta-narrative that our little stories of three score years plus ten (more or less) comprise a stage scene.

It’s the ‘with you’ moment. In prosperity and poverty, in anxiety and depression, in moments where you feel completely abandoned and alone, in times of betrayal, loss, shame, guilt, and pain. There is one whisper that shouts through creation.

‘I am with you.’

I tangibly feel it when another flawed and failing human being reaches out a hand, listens to the story, touches my heart, and says, ‘You’re doing ok.

It’s a grounding in the reality of us all being on a darkly lit path.

What do they know

You may scream internally at these three words. ‘Well, what do they know! Do they know about this and that?

They may not know all the dirt you have to shovel through, but perhaps what they are offering is that from their limited point of view that they want to offer a gift of solidarity, not solutions.

This may be the time where you can ask if you can share something of the ongoing story. The struggle of the moment. That expression of not feeling ok.

Discovering a ‘warm your heart’ walk

It’s a beautiful story of two travelers who were not doing ok. They were hurting and confused. They had seen an innocent man put to death. Crucified.

In their struggle, one came alongside and expressed that they were doing ok in light of all the struggle. They had a ‘with you’ moment of warm fellowship.

That same day two of them were walking to the village Emmaus, about seven miles out of Jerusalem.

They were deep in conversation, going over all these things that had happened. In the middle of their talk and questions, Jesus came up and walked along with them. But they were not able to recognize who he was.

He asked, “What’s this you’re discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Luke 24:13-35

Sometimes we don’t recognize the stranger that comes alongside us and offers us that heartfelt compansion in the ‘You’re doing ok’ community.

There is a desire still in the heart of the Christ to come alongside the weary, the confused, the downtrodden. Perhaps Jesus comes in the presence of someone like you.

Oh yes, and there are times when people are not doing ok, and you need to be equally gentle and loving and show a storied interest in the path they are on.

 Quotes to consider
  • The lamp for our path illumines our next step but leaves much ahead, beside, and behind in darkness. Change from the inside out will always be, in the final analysis, a work of God and must therefore remain a mystery. Remembering this can help us keep realistic expectations of any teaching on change as well as reverence for the God whose ways are far above ours. Larry Crabb Inside Out.
  • Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread. D.T. Niles
  • No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love. Henri Nouwen inner voice of love
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
Questions to consider
  1. Who in your life needs to hear the words ‘You’re doing ok?
  2. Why do we strive for independence when we were created for interdependence?
  3. What would it be like to be told that ‘You’re doing ok?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Andriyko Podilnyk on Unsplash

May 12, 2021
When You See Into Their Mist – Who They Are Becoming
21:55

There is a mask or even a mist that we can see something quite wondrous when we see behind or through, but it takes awareness to see the vision of what they are becoming.

There is a drive I take every week to a farm and garden out in the countryside. I leave home early in the morning when it is dark and often arrive at daybreak.

It’s a beautiful drive going over hills, through valleys, and besides a stream with sailboats nestled into wooded banks. But it’s particularly beautiful on those mornings when there is a little bit of mist just sitting above the paddocks and on the river. I have to stop and quietly soak in the beauty.

As the sun begins to light up the sky, the darkness starts to retreat.

It’s light, its movement, it’s a time of transition from night into day. The fog sits and clings to the trees, and I know that within a few minutes, it will be gone.

It’s a special time of day, and so many people miss it. They are asleep to the glory and beauty around them. Or perhaps they are busy with getting ready for the day.

By the time they on the same road that I have traveled, the beauty has moved on, never to be seen quite like that again.

We hurry by, don’t we? It takes a conscious decision to slow down, stop, and take it in.

Many people need to be seen behind the dark or even the daylight of their presentation.

Looking a little beyond to the becoming

I like to look a little beyond.

It’s a simple prayer and goes something like this.

‘Help me to see them as you (Jesus) see them.’

What would it be like to have the eyes of Christ?

The eyes of Christ that can look right through all the parades, charades, and games that we all play. To see under the mask of makeup and self-protection.

These wouldn’t be condemning eyes. Instead, these are eyes that dance with delight and joy. These are eyes that affirm you with loving acceptance.

They see the tears, they may even shed a few with you, but they don’t reject or abandon.

These are the eyes that have traversed the dark with you and know that a new day is coming. They see something different from the experience that you have of yourself.

The tender moment

It was a moment in the conversation that I wasn’t quite expecting. Good things often happen unexpectedly.

We had been talking for a few minutes about a painful moment in their lives, and then I saw tears start to trickle down the face. They were hurting, and I felt inadequate. I was meant to.

I prayed, ‘Help me to see them as you see them.’

It was that moment of time between the darkness of the night and the dawning of a new day. The new day would be them shifting out of a deep conversation and into the business and activity of the day.

There was a moment, and I wanted to see the beauty and purpose of it.

Who were they becoming? What was this moment of misty dawning awareness bringing forth for us to explore? I was both excited and still.

I knew that Aslan was on the move. It wasn’t safe, but it was good.

Sure enough, ten minutes later and it was back into functional day-to-day business. Let’s keep busy to keep us one step ahead of the pain of the night and the unknown.

A new business card

I recently saw quite a funny cartoon.

The first image shows Simon, the fisherman picking up a pack of business cards from a printer.

The printer says

‘Here’s your order, sir. A thousand business cards saying ‘Simon, the fisherman.’

The next image starts with a little caption

‘Later that day …’.

In the image, it has Jesus saying to Simon.

‘Simon! from now on, you shall be known as Peter!

Peter looks a little annoyed that he had just got all these business cards, and now he has a name and identity.

This story refers to the encounter between Peter and Jesus that we find in John’s telling of Jesus’story.

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus.

The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”).

He immediately led him to Jesus.

Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”). John 1:41, 42

Jesus saw something in Simon and wanted to affirm it. There was a vision of who Simon was to become. A rock of strength for a new move of God in the world.

I wonder if Jesus would suggest a name change for you. Maybe a divinely glorious nickname. Something to signify who you are becoming.

Changing your name

I know many people who have changed their name.

Often it’s a bride, and they change their surname to that of their husband, but I have known someone who changed their name completely.

They changed their name because their brother was well known in New Zealand for certain crimes. The surname was not a common surname like Smith or Jones; rather, it was quite rare to have a name like this.

So they decided to change their name because of being constantly asked about their brother. They felt slurred with the association. They changed their name to change an association with a particular story.

Jesus was saying to Simon that this is your new story, and it’s beginning to unfold. Yes, the business cards of fisherman might have suited him for a time, but now it was going to be different. Jesus saw in him a rock.

Who are you becoming

Someone once said to me.

‘I wonder what God will have me doing in the future?’

I felt a little sadness in my soul when I heard this because all the deep work that they were doing in the area of the soul wasn’t about getting them ready to do something. It was more about who they were becoming.

What was happening in them was change, and it was beautiful.

As I got glimpses through the mists of their pre-dawn life, I became excited. Something was beginning to birth in them. It was a new person.

Something, of course, would emerge as a ‘doing’ out of their ‘being.’ It’s only natural that there would be an overflow out of a full cup.

But when we focus on the ‘doing,’ we lose sight of the delicate artwork of the ‘being’ that Spirit is crafting.

There is a mist, a river, a sunrise that we need to stop and look at, and then give thanks.

The vision for the ego

I have heard them many times. A pastor, a church leader, a ‘superstar prophet’ flown from overseas with much fanfare to give out a ‘special’ word.

A word is given, and people are told they are going to be great leaders and teachers. Healing, wealth, prosperity, freedom, etc…

All of this touches the ego and a human desire for more: more recognition, self-worth, self-styled kingdom building.

How many times have people had their hopes built up by overinflated puff balls.  Then it doesn’t happen. Maybe you heard it wrong. Perhaps you need to do more, follow the rules more, give more, and of course, sin less.

It all becomes an activity of doing more rather than the discovery of becoming more. The ‘vision’ and ‘word’ seem to be more about building up the organization than the organism (you).

I get excited about millimeters.

It’s the little things that get me most excited—those little millimeter changes in the soul.

In writing to a church that was at risk of becoming bound up in law and fundamentalism, Paul wrote about what to look for in one’s becoming.’

It was fruit.

What happens when we live God’s way?

He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like

      • love – affection for others,
      • Joy – exuberance about life,
      • peace- serenity.
      • patience – a willingness to stick with things,
      • kindness – a sense of compassion in the heart,
      • goodness – a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
      • faithfulness – loyal commitments,
      • gentleness – not needing to force our way in life,
      • self-control – an ability to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22, 23

When I’m in those tender moments of transition with people, those misty mornings moving from dark to day, I look for the millimeter growth of fruit.

How is patience growing? Are they learning to be kind to themselves and others?

The fruit of love is coming along well, and they are so gentle with their tender heart.

What about the joy that is starting to bubble through the rocks of pain?

A new sense of peace is starting to settle on disturbed times.

Yes, Aslan is definitely moving in this one.

Quotes to consider
  • They say Aslan is on the move- perhaps has already landed.” And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning- either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • God walks with us into our fears, to feel them, to own them, to let them teach us. Richard Rohr. Job and the Mystery of Suffering
  • A Spirit-inspired vision sometimes includes an idea of what a person could do, but it always centers on who that person could become. Larry Crabb Connecting
  • When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight You gotta kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight Bruce Cockburn Lovers in a dangerous time
Questions to answer
  1. When listening to someone and you suddenly feel inadequate, what is your first response to their becoming?
  2. What are you gently curious about in the other? What are millimeters of fruit growth that fill you with intrigue?
  3. Was there a little phrase or sentence that spoke to you in this post? What whispered, ‘This is for you.’
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Edouard TAMBA on Unsplash

May 05, 2021
Falling to the Oldest Trick in the Book. Ministry or Manipulation
20:12

We’ve all fallen to the oldest trick in the book, but we need to know the oldest truth in the book. Knowing the difference between ministry and manipulation.

I watched them do it. They said a few words, suggested some options, smiled in a certain way, and waited. It wasn’t long before they had what they wanted. They had laid out the bait, and the person had grabbed it.

I then wondered how many times people had fallen to this subtle and sly manipulation. They were such an expert at it. Their success, their control was based on their ability to get others to do what they wanted them to do.

What’s it like to find out you’ve been manipulated?

To have someone use all sorts of little tricks and techniques to further their own cause.

The oldest trick in the book

You may have heard of the little phrase ‘The oldest trick in the book.’ It refers to a way of tricking someone that is still effective, although it has been used a lot before.

You’ll see it everywhere.

    • Those advertisements for the cosmetics that will ‘turn back the clock and remove the wrinkles.’ ‘You’ll feel like your 25 again’.
    • The advertisement promoting a particular tool that you will be able to build a house just like all the other guys, the successful ones!
    • Give your money to this Church building project, and God will bless you with abundance and prosperity (whatever that might mean to you).
    • Come to Jesus, and all your problems will disappear. (Jesus never said that, by the way)

And actually, the oldest trick is truly the oldest trick in the book, the Bible.

The oldest trick in the Bible.

I’m going to suggest that the oldest trick, that sly manipulation, was one that came from a snake.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

That word ‘crafty’ is about being creative.

I know someone who can take pieces of driftwood, flax, twine, twigs, and cane and craft them into a basket. Crafty can be good. It’s creative. It’s twisting, bending, and making something out of the raw materials on offer.

Crafty can also be bad. Twisting the truth, manipulating and bending a few words for them to seem something different to their original intention.

“Did God really say” is such a sly little question.

It’s a hook to open up doubt about whether God is holding out on something good.

It’s the oldest trick in the book to raise a doubt, to suggest a lack, to whisper ‘you might be missing out.’ It’s a comparison, and you’re the one that’s lacking.

I think of the prodigal son leaving the father, thinking he knew better about where life could be found, and then his brother whining that he had missed out on something.

The oldest truth in the book

There is a truth that is deeper and better than the trick, and it’s so profoundly good that we are not aware of it.

Jesus, in the story of the loving father, speaks the truth to the trick.

‘You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours’ Luke 15:31

That was the awareness that we had as humanity before believing the trickery of the serpent, the satan, the accuser. There was closeness and fulfillment.

Satan tried it on with Jesus too ‘You can have it all – if you bow down to me.’

Jesus already had it all and knew it.

Ministry or Manipulation

When I was a child, in the church denomination I grew up in, the pastor was called ‘minister.’ Other churches had priests, pastors, and vicars. We had a Minister. They were to minister to the needs of the church.

Yet so often, then and now, I find many ministers are often manipulative in their ministry.

This, of course, is done with good intentions, but I wonder if what we do as ministers (and I include myself here) is more about manipulation than true selfless ministry. Reaching a goal rather than sharing a grace.

We have a goal, so we will manipulate a response.

    • ‘Come to Christ, or you’ll burn in hell.’
    • ‘The Bible says … so you need to …’
    • The songs we sing, the lights, smoke machines, carefully crafted words, loud music, soft music give the feedback that the ‘The worship was so good.’

Frank slips out of the pews and has a coffee with a man on the street.

Jenny visits the depressed woman next door who struggles to get out of bed, clean the dishes, and open the curtains. She listens deep.

Where do you think the man of sorrows would rather be?

An overflowing ministry

I want to overflow you.

Imagine if you can three close friends. They know everything about each other, and individually they want to outdo each other in giving goodness to each other.

Essentially one of them says to the other two, ‘I’m so excited to know you that I want to overflow in ministry to you. I want to flood you with love.’

The other two have a chuckle and a laugh of joy, and then individually, they repeat back to the other the same words. ‘I’m going to outdo you in love.’

The response is a Clint Eastwood face and words, ‘Go ahead, make my day.’

They all fall apart in laughter then resume the water fight of overflowing love.

They outdo each other in ministering to the other.

This back and forth overflowing is like a perpetual motion outpouring of trying to outdo each other in love.

Oh yes, and you are in the middle of this wash. You’re getting splashed with overflow, but you don’t even know it.

Then a serpent appears and spins a crafty lie. ‘They’re holding out on you. They can’t be that good.’

An ever so slight shift in gaze, and you’re gone.

Sin is not being far from God, it’s turning our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil

Washing feet

The oldest truth in the book came alive when Jesus took on the role of the lowliest servant and washed His disciple’s feet.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil [read the prince of manipulation] had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:2-5

 

 

Here in Jesus’ final meal, there was no servant to wash their feet. It was always the lowliest of the servants that got the task of washing dirty, dusty feet.

No one would ever jump up and say, ‘pick me!’

So Jesus chose to minister. That was his mode of being. He was a minister, not a manipulator. He wasn’t trying to manipulate a response, it was a job that needed doing, and he decided he would do it.

Something of the life of communing with Father/Mother and Spirit (Holy) was pouring out sacrificially into the toes, cuts, and calluses of these men’s feet.

Let your mind go there for a moment. Feel the water and the fingers of the Christ work between your toes.

This act of ministry caused a ruckus. Jesus often did.

What’s it like to be ministered to? To have love poured over your wounds, your tiredness, your depression, your anxiety? Ministry without any strings attached. Being foot massaged by someone being a conduit of Jesus’ love.

The fine line

In your relationships, are you more a minister or a manipulator?

Ouch! That’s a tough question because so often, I think we, without any awareness, lean more to manipulation than ministry.

We have a  subconscious accountant’s balance sheet. ‘I’ve done this for them, so they need to do this for me.’

So often, we do things for others in the hope of what we will receive back. When we don’t, we get all resentful, bitter, and turn down the flow.

Questions to Grow in ministry, not manipulation.

 1. What is your heart goal? What is the deepest desire in your heart that you aware of? Ask God to reveal the truest motivations for your actions.

 2. Where are you being filled? If you’re giving out all time, you will become tired and fatigued.

What fills your cup? For Jesus, it was a retreat to the mountains.

Do you have people in your life that seem to naturally want to minister into the toes and crevices of your daily dusty walk?

How does God minister into your tiredness?

3. Do you have personal lines of love and respect? It’s ok to have limits to how much you can minister. Jesus didn’t minister to everyone; he knew his personal earthbound limitations.

So out of love and respect for himself, he was focused on what he could and couldn’t do. It’s ok to say ‘No’ or ‘Not at this moment.’

4. How are you a conduit between the goodness of God and the needs of others? Imagine yourself as being like a piece of pipe, and the goodness of God is flowing through you and pouring out into others.

You pour God’s love out to others through your words and deeds. In the pouring, you see a refreshment coming to you personally from God.

You take care of the pipeline and maintain its strength and integrity.

  1. That’s always the challenge. Am I in ministry mode or manipulation? Am I operating out of the purest of motivations?

It’s a fine line that only Spirit (Holy) can help you with.

Quotes to consider
  • Husbands and wives are to regard marriage as an opportunity to minister in a unique and special way to another human being, to be used of God to bring their spouses into a more satisfying appreciation of their worth as persons who are secure and significant in Jesus Christ. Larry Crabb Marriage Builder
  • The power of God is indispensable to altering one’s commitments meaningfully. Until I am aware that my needs are already met in Christ, I will be motivated by emptiness to meet my needs. When by simple faith I accept Christ’s shed blood as full payment for my sins, I am brought into a relationship with an infinite Being of love and purpose who fully satisfies my deepest needs for security and significance. Therefore I am freed from self-centered preoccupation with my own needs; they are met. It is now possible for me to give to others out of my fullness rather than needing to receive from others because of my emptiness. For the first time, I have the option of living selflessly. Larry Crabb Marriage Builder
  • People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. Mother Teresa

Questions to consider
  1. How do we determine if we are in ministry or manipulation?
  2. What’s it like to discover you’ve been manipulated?
  3. What’s it like to receive the purest of ministry, no strings attached?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Apr 29, 2021
You’re Being Too Naked in Your Vulnerability
13:02

They were too naked in their vulnerability. Too much too soon, but with careful listening, time, and respect, they began to feel deeply known.

They had been too naked with their vulnerability. They thought they were safe with this friend, that what they shared wouldn’t be exposed. But it was told to others, and now they had closed up and remained unknown.

When you’re naked, you’re open to critique, you’re vulnerable to both rejection and acceptance, and you’re never quite sure which way it will swing.

So now they share with no one. Everything is masked up and hidden away.

Secret thoughts, passions, desires, longings, and questions (lots of questions) stay behind the walls.

Perhaps one day, they will find the presence of someone that can listen to the naked vulnerability of their story and sacrificially clothe them with acceptance.

The Eden desire to be known

What would it be like if you were to be known fully by one person and, most importantly, loved for everything you are.

It’s probably difficult to grasp this because we are so aware of our flaws and failings but in this instance, try to imagine there would be nothing of that.

Nothing to hide. Everything open and perfect. You would be translucent, and others could enjoy the uniqueness of you.

I still long for the kind of love that we first felt back in Eden.

To be known and have unselfish love flow towards me and from me to others.  A ‘suitable helper,’ a ‘soul mate,’ someone to be ‘soul naked’ in front of and feel no shame.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Genesis 2:25

I want to be known, and so I open the door and hope someone will provide some Eden interest in my heart.

You see, we still have the scent of the Garden wafting deeply through our subconscious. We want to be known, but often we feel unknown, alone, invisible, and sadly a kind indifference from others.

It’s not self-centered this desire to be known.

You may well be thinking that this desire to be known sounds very selfish. That it’s all about you and meeting your needs.

But it’s not because you were made and created in the spirit of deep community. We were made for translucent communion with each other.

Deep in your heart, you also want to know at least one other person where you can commune with oneness. You want to meet them in their unknownness.

It may be scary to get to know the other at a deep level. It might hurt and push some of your own buttons. But deep down, you want to know them and be with them in their place.

I was in conversation with someone the other day, and I was deeply and genuinely curious about something they said. We talked briefly about many different things, but most of all, I wanted them to feel known in the struggles they were facing. Not to be F.A.S.S.ed – fixed, advised, saved, or set straight.

It’s now pay-to-know.

If you want to know anyone at any great depth, then there has to be a payment made of time and respect.

I love the game of Cricket, especially test match cricket. This is the game that can be played for 5 days, and at the end of the game, it can be a draw.

I try to describe a great test match as a 5-day arm wrestle where both teams are wrestling to the bitter end.

I want to know the game and everything that is going on, so recently, I signed up for a pay-to-view subscription with a local internet provider to see the matches.

Relationships work in a similar way, and the currency is time and respect.

How many times do we only find out something deep and quite significant about someone after we have walked with them for many, many years?

It’s like we have to pay the due of time and respect before the trust was built enough to allow the other to feel safe to be known at that next level.

A spouse discloses how they were abused as a child. Only after years of observation and trust-building have they felt room for them to be known.

You’re too naked too early.

At times I have had conversations with people who have been quick to tell me the dark stuff. It’s like this is their identity, and they want me to know it. They go too naked too early.

You may have heard about how we are all like onions. You peel off one layer, and then another, and then another.

Every layer reveals something deeper about the person: a new level, a new revealing.

More often than not, though, tears of connection need to be mutually expressed with each disclosure.

When people reveal themselves too early, I want to reclothe them and get to know the outer layers first. It’s fitting and respectful to know the whole before exploring under the skin.

Perhaps too naked too early is a desire for validation of pain.

Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability. It can be oversharing, it can be shock and awe, it can be attention-seeking, but it’s not true vulnerability. Because what you’re looking for usually when you broadcast is validation of pain, not connection. Brene Brown Podcast – A bit of optimism with Simon Sinek (30 min)

James, Peter, John, and Mary

Jesus didn’t broadcast his struggles. He didn’t tweet out the wrestle in his internal world. Instead, he invited a few close friends in.

We find time and time again that he spent most of his deep onion layered time with three men and one woman – James, Peter, John, and Mary.

The night before his crucifixion, he pulled them aside and went into a garden.

They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with him. He sank into a pit of suffocating darkness. He told them, “I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me.” Mark 14:32 -34

Mary stood both at the base of the cross and waited at the tomb.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  John 20:1 

Jesus felt safe to be known by these four.

John, though was probably the one that Jesus allowed to come in the closest. John wrote the love story of Jesus’ life and then wrote love letters to the early churches.

I think John smelt the perfume of the Garden of Eden reaching over the walls more than anyone else. He himself felt known and offered the delight of being known back to the Christ.

Smelling the garden

I spend much of my time in various people’s gardens. Pruning, weeding, spreading compost, planting, etc.

Occasionally I smell the perfume of a beautiful rose coming to my senses. I seek it out and find it bringing out its colorful scented glory. I stop and smell the roses. I take deep draughts of perfume into my soul and give thanks. I know the rose and am thankful for its exposure.

I often smell something of Edens’s delight in the lives of the people I meet. There is something that I must seek out and know.

They might consider themselves as woody, thorn-covered, and thoroughly ugly, but with time and consideration, there is a beauty and purpose that is expressed and known.

To know someone takes time and respect.

Quotes to consider
  • To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.  C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Can you be vulnerable yet? We all need touch and hugs, but first we must take down the walls that have been built too high around our hearts. D. Riddell
  • It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love. And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family. Curt Thompson
  • Opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked.  Rob Bell
Questions to consider
  1. What would it be like to be fully known by someone else and not feel shame?
  2. Who are your closest friends, people who deeply know you?
  3. How do we demonstrate safety to another so that they can feel it’s safe to be known?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Apr 22, 2021
The God Who Enters My Shame
15:37

It was my shame, but it wasn’t to be carried alone. I had a friend who knew it all, and God entered in and healed the pain.

I was being laughed at. I was only a seven-year-old, but for the first time, I felt the cold icy winds of being mocked and shamed.

The situation was that it was my school assembly and I thought our class had won a prize for some art project. So I got up from sitting on the floor and started to walk to the front.

Within seconds I realized that I was the only one standing and moving.

Slinking back to sit on the floor, I felt every eye was on me. I felt very alone and stupid. Kids were laughing and making sport of me.

That was the first time I remember being exposed to the humiliation of getting it wrong. I went on to have many other moments of shame.

Like a bumper boat being shoved from one intrusive experience to the next, our little life gets bumped and bruised along a passage of painful moments.

Shame can be defined as ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.’

It sounds very technical, doesn’t it?

But shame is very much an emotion. To know shame is to know a hole in your life that is bottomless. You can fall into it and keep on spiraling down.

It’s a cold shadow of being completely alone – exposed, unloved, a fool.

Do you remember your first moment of shame?

That moment when your flaws and failings were exposed. You were seen and not known in grace. It might have come from someone else, that painful exposure, that mocking. But deeper and more lasting are the shame messages we say to ourselves.

There is something in yourself that you loath. A self-hatred festers and poisons your life. It’s a comparisonitis to perfection; however you define perfection.

Your the only one in this ‘shame world.’

Everyone else has got it perfectly right. We stay in our personal shame hole because we may well be shamed even more in the very instance of exposing our failures.

We either hide or we hit. In any exposure of flaws, we either hide away or we hit back and retaliate. What’s your defense strategy?

The God who enters our shame

They had got it wrong, and they knew it. They had stolen fruit from the orchard and discovered, for themselves, that it was poisoned.

I remember my father telling a story one day of how he had been to an area of our farm where some beautiful plum trees were growing by a stream. The trees were ripe with big red plums, and looking for a plum to eat on a hot summer’s day, he looked up into a tree.

To his surprise, two little boys were sitting high in the tree. He called out to them, ‘What are you doing up there?’

They responded, ‘We’re looking for Mr. McPherson’s pigs.’

‘Well, you won’t find them up there!’ he told them.

We laughed heartily at their quick-witted response.

They had been exposed for breaking the rules. They were stealing fruit, not looking for pigs.

In Genesis, we find another couple of plum stealers.

Adam and Eve ate the fruit that was out of bounds. They had got it wrong. Badly wrong. The choices they made were human in experience, and now they experienced the fullness of exposure. Guilt and shame washed into them.

But the dancing trinity did not shy away from their exposure. Instead, they entered into it and clothed their exposure with a sacrifice of something of their own creation.

And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

The Christ who enters our shame

Fred: ‘He’s coming to dinner.’

Jenny: ‘Our place? Our messy kitchen? He’s going to see our dirty oven and the dust on the mantlepiece.’

Fred: ‘Oh yes, he also wants to eat with people like us – the prostitutes, gamblers, tax collectors, adulterers, loan sharks, addicts, and all the crazies that have been shunned and looked down upon.’

Jenny: ‘That’s a big party.’

Fred: ‘He also said not to make a fuss and do anything special. He wants to simply be with us, enter our world and wash our feet.’

 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

Here is the Christ who enters the world of the shamed. Not to cast judgment and punishment, but to offer presence to loneliness. They had been shamed by the rocks thrown. Now someone without shame was entering their world.

They were being known, discovered, explored, and touched. There was a deliberate act of intrusive love into their world.

Jesus once had a conversation with a woman who carried a shame load. At the end of the conversation, her response was joy. It was a liberation that led to her telling her whole community that she met with someone who knew everything about her but wasn’t turned away.

In her freedom, she invited her whole community to come and experience this newness.

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” John 4:29

We enter in

It may not take it away completely, but having someone safe enter your shame place and not be turned away is a most special gift. To be loved and affirmed deeply even when the shame is known is a starting point for deep healing.

It’s the acknowledgment that we have all got it wrong somewhere along the journey and that the invitation is to be connected at that level of human exposure.

So we take careful yet deliberate steps to defuse the power of shame in each other. We make sacrifices of ourselves so that others don’t feel so naked and exposed. Stories are told, bread is shared, and common flawed humanity is discovered.

You got a face not spoiled by beauty I have some scars from where I’ve been You’ve got eyes that can see right through me You’re not afraid of anything they’ve seen I was told that I would feel nothing the first time I don’t know how these cuts heal But in you I found a rhyme.

And I’m a long way From your hill of Calvary And I’m a long way From where I was, where I need to be If there is a light You can’t always see And there is a world We can’t always be If there is a kiss I stole from your mouth And there is a light Don’t let it go out U2 – Song for someone

Every one of us needs someone safe, a bearer of the Christ, to enter our world and disturb the shame with grace.  To ‘not be afraid of anything they’ve seen.’

Quotes to consider
  • Shame is the raincoat over the soul repelling the living water of Jesus that would otherwise establish us as the beloved of God. Andrew Comiskey
  • An addict needs shame like a man dying of thirst needs saltwater. Terrence Real 
  • I think that is God’s plan – to meet me where I am, in all my ugliness, not where I pretend to be or wish I were; to meet me in my weakness and shame and fear and to give me hope that God loves me, that He can change me, and that He can use me. Dr. Larry Crabb, Real Church 
  • Shame causes us to see our identity as flawed rather than seeing ourselves as having flaws. Dan Allender Hope when you’re hurting
Questions to consider
  1. What was your earliest shaming event, and how did it affect you?
  2. What would it have been like to be deeply in that moment?
  3. How do you respond to shame now? Do you run, hide, hit back, or invite an entering in of Christ and others?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

 

Apr 15, 2021
God Will Never Leave You and Here is Why
12:22

Many people fear that God will leave them, but you have a very good reason why this will not happen. God has a reputation to uphold. A reputation of perfect love.

Deep, deep down, I think one of my greatest fears is that of abandonment. That I will be kicked out of the tribe, the family, the grouping, I will be alone.

Like a leper cast out of the town, I will be on the outside whilst everyone else is enjoying community on the inside. The party is going on, but the door is shut and bolted to entry.

Dig into the deep longings of your heart, and I think you will find a similar fear. We were created to enjoy a party going on, not the sterility of an isolation ward.

Yet, so many live in a fear of God leaving them. They have a deep belief that God, having become so fed up with their sin, lack of obedience, trust, and failure, throws the hands to the skies and shouts, ‘I’m done, they’re out of here.’

Maybe a threat of ‘being kicked out’ was held over them from a young age.

Punishment for not getting it right. Threats, condemnation, rules, black and white, you’re ‘In,’ or you’re ‘Out.’

Possibly at a young age, they experienced a deep loss. A death, a parent walking away from the marriage, a belittling of genuine pain. Healthy, God-designed attachments broken and torn away.

Rejection can get its hooks into us at a very early age. Only love can pry it loose.

Returning the favor

I think we often make God into our own likeness.

French writer Voltaire writes this.

In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since. Voltaire

We create an image of what God is like from the scraps of our own experiences.

Taught or caught?

We get taught certain theologies about God’s nature (head knowledge) but so often, what we deeply believe (heart knowing) is caught through the experiences of our lives.

We remain in the old belief systems until we have caught, or we catch new healthier beliefs.

What beliefs have you caught that actually need to be thrown back as they are either undersized or something never intended for eating?

Promises, promises, promises to never leave.

I could fill this page with verse upon verse of scripture about God never leaving us.

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. Deuteronomy 31:8

But do these verses touch that core fear of the heart? Maybe they do on a very cognitive basis, but what does the heart need to hear?

You’ve seen promises get broken. You’ve broken them yourself. So now you’re not too sure about being reliant on a few words uttered.

Looking beyond my shame and guilt

I believe that God uses us as flawed mirrors of themselves – Father/mother, Spirit, Jesus.

We discover new facets of what God is like through the expression of themselves through their greatest creation – us.

When someone who knows my pain, shame, guilt, darkness, depression, anxieties and yet still chooses to love and welcome me into themselves, then I smell the aroma of perfect love.

I catch something of God.

As a pastor, coach, friend, I have had the deep privilege of hearing some of the most terrible things that have happened to people. Actually, once I had a counselor say to me that God has given me the gift of being able to walk into the very dark places of people’s lives and having nothing sticking to me.

When I have listened to the darkness of others, I have been an ambassador of Christ. I have represented God’s ‘I am with you’ reputation.

When I have given the invitation to look bad in the face of love, often people have caught a new vision of what God is like.

Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours. Teresa of Avila

The reputation

We all know what a reputation is, don’t we? Often it’s negative. That person has a reputation for not being trustworthy, for doing these bad things, of failure.

The writer of proverbs says this.

A good name [or reputation] is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1

A good reputation is important in life. Consistency, reliability, faithfulness. All qualities that built trust and confidence.

God also has a reputation to maintain.

In the oldest book of the Bible, Job, we find a man who must have questioned whether God had abandoned him. His life of seeming blessedness had been destroyed.

Anything of material wealth, health, or supposed blessing had been stripped from him.

Then his so-called friends and family told him to abandon God. To walk away. They misrepresented the nature of what God was like. They were smearing God’s reputation.

At the end of Job’s story, these friends are confronted by God about their words, their folly.

After the Lord had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly; for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has done.”  

So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the Lord had told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. Job 42: 7-9

God’s reputation of faithful commitment to his creation, the apple of his eye, had been smeared and tarnished.

There is a reputation to be upheld in the heavenlies of our God being faithful to his creation.

Have you caught it yet?

God rejecting you would be like the ocean rejecting a fish. A ‘vomiting out’ on the shoreline of a fish, something that was designed for swimming and breathing in water. You wouldn’t last a minute.

You were made to be living in the full contact presence of a loving threefold dancing family. It’s just we aren’t always aware of it.

The prayer of awareness

Spiritual formation is an evolving awareness. We start with some assumptions about what God is like, and we evolve. Exposure to the new replaces the old.

We ask for more awareness of what God is like to seep into our souls.

Like the friends of Job, we often misrepresent what God is like. So we ask for forgiveness, and God makes it right because God is infinite love and forgiveness. God has a reputation to maintain.

As you pray, ask God that you may catch more of God’s delighting presence around you. That the old beliefs that are holding you in fear will be replaced with new beliefs of eternal inclusiveness to God’s heart.

Quotes to consider
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • The furious love of God knows no shadow of alteration or change. It is reliable. And always tender. Brennan Manning
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr.
  • Like faded paintings on the wall that one never sees because they’ve always been there, so are the assumptions that govern our lives. D. Riddell.
Questions to consider
  1. Caught or taught? Some of your deepest beliefs. Were they caught or taught?
  2. What grows awareness of God’s forever presence in your life?
  3. What happened in you when you read the words ‘God rejecting you would be like the ocean rejecting a fish?’
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Simon Watkinson on Unsplash

Apr 08, 2021
The Evolution of Empowered Boundaries
12:09

It can be so debilitating to be told ‘you need to have boundaries,’ but as you grow the heart, a new empowered strength slowly builds within.

‘You really need to have boundaries’

How many times have you heard this said or even said it yourself?

I always feel a little cringe when I hear these words. There is just something about it that sounds legalistic, mechanical, rules bound, and policy-driven.

Nothing of the heart or any internal depth to it.

This is why I prefer ‘Lines of love of respect.’ It seems to connect better to something that is of heart value. Something that is evolving.

It also sounds condemning.

You know you need boundaries, but you don’t know how to get there. It’s like there is a lack of internal strength even to define a boundary, express it and potentially enforce it.

Condemning because it’s yet another mountain too high to climb.

Perhaps this boundary stuff is an inside-out evolution.

Evolution of the heart

The unfurling of a fern frond is something that has captured my imagination for many years. It’s part of the logo for Turning the Page.

Here in New Zealand, we call it the Koru ((Māori for ‘loop or coil’) and is the spiral shape based on the appearance of a new unfurling silver fern frond.

There is a natural energy that pours through the fern to unfold its inner beauty and strength. It’s an evolution.

There is a movement from the inside out.

An unfolding of its God-designed deep inner beauty and purpose.

I believe that we are much like this uncurling frond. If you try to force the process, you will break it. It’s got to happen in its own time and its own way.

Some words to consider.

  • Volution – A turn or twist about a center; a spiral.
  • Evolution – the gradual development of something. An unspiraling.
Beautiful Birthing

The most beautiful birthings I have given witness to are when someone has done the hard inside-out work. They have gone deep into the core of who they are and the beliefs they have held.

Toxic negative beliefs about themselves have been gently replaced by life-giving truth. The birth was not easy (never is), but it resulted from something growing within.

The heart is issuing, or giving out, a newness of life.

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

The heart has grown from within. It hasn’t been forced or manipulated; it’s been a natural outcome of doing the work.

Often part of the process is to examine the toxic waste that has gathered around the heart and poisoned its true beauty and purpose.

Shedding the toxic waste

There is a toxic waste that often gets revealed through the conversations we have. The little put-downs, controlling attitudes, self-condemnation we say to ourselves and others.

Our heart speaks out both good and bad in our words and actions.

The heart overflows in the words a person speaks; your words reveal what’s within your heart. Luke 6:45

If we are aware of the toxin, we try to hide it, but so often, we may not even know we have some toxic, poisoned, stinky – thinky going on in our hearts.

Perhaps the groupings and relationships we have, develop and maintain the waste line. I wonder how many in Churches are trapped in groupthink.

Toxic theologies abound. You can read some of them here.

Growing your heart

There is such a gentleness to this heart evolution that it’s hard to define. But it’s all enveloped in love. Love from others and a growing love and respect for the self.

That Koru of unfolding fern wouldn’t stand a chance out in the desert. Rather it needs the protection and nourishment of a sun filtred forest.

Discovering your truest value and worth is not self-centered narcissism; it’s more coming in line with the way you were always intended to be. The healed heart can issue out life-giving abundance to others.

Our hearts come to have empowered lines of love and respect when we recognize that what’s inside is worthy of protection and nourishment.

When we self-denigrate and put down our deepest value and worth, we continue to have flimsy boundaries. The winds and words of others easily crush us.

Shoring up with sandbags

There is a flood coming.

It’s going to sweep into your home and destroy your most precious possessions. So you gather sandbags and build yourself a wall of protection.

It takes effort and time, but you fill bags and build bag upon bag upon bag.

The waters come, but you have built a barrier, a boundary, a line of love and respect for what you hold most dear to your self.

You would do this for your physical home, but what about for something even more precious – your heart.

Recently I have been building a sandbag wall to protect my heart from the intrusive hurtful voices of others and my inner critic. I have been giving my heart new food to feed itself on.

Affirming the truth about ourselves

Something I have been doing every day for the past four months is to listen to a series of short affirmations I have audio recorded for myself.

These are short sentences that I want my heart to hear and believe. I want my heart to evolve out of these short-spoken truths.

The first one I hear every morning is this.

I am Zakar. I am remembering and moving into my world. I am leaving a mark. I am male. (read more about Zakar here)

Some others are

  • I am focusing on the positive/good things, and this gives me hope.
  • I am giving my heart new beliefs to feed on
  • I am resting my mind on God’s truth for me, and this is slowly shaping my brain.
  • I am discounting my mistakes before they discount me
  • I am holding myself to a standard of grace, not perfection
  • I am building my life on great thoughts repeated over and over again until they are programmed in.

There is gentle intentionality to the strengthening of my heart.

That Koru beauty and purpose within my heart is slowly and gently growing in strength. Winds and abuses come and brush up against it. It hurts, but there’s a depth and resilience to the new me that is unfolding.

Perhaps if I were a woman, I would want to say to my heart these words.

I am Naqebah. I am revealing the beauty of God. I am displaying beauty. I am female. (read more about Naqebah here)

This beauty I am talking about is not about physical appearance; it’s more about a deep inner beauty that reflects something of God’s own beauty. It is a beauty that needs to be revealed to be known.

When we develop these core beliefs about who we truly are, then the boundaries, the lines of love and respect, the sandbags are strengthened.

As we nourish the heart we build our boundaries, our lines of love and respect from the inside out. It’s an unfurling of our deepest self.

Quotes to consider
  • Human life must be about more than building boundaries, protecting identities, and teaching impulse control. Richard Rohr
  • To shift a truth from your head to your heart, speak it loud, speak it often, and make a deliberate choice to believe it. David Riddell
  • The role of heart and mind is to cooperate with truth by opening to love. We need the mind to know the truth of the heart, and we need the heart to know the truth of the mind. David G. Benner
  • Real self-esteem comes from within; it is the existential, spiritual truth that we have value and worth intrinsically, because we are here and breathing, not because of anything we have or can do, nor how others regard us. Terrence Real
Questions to answer
  1. When someone says to you ‘You need boundaries’ what goes on in your heart? What emotions get triggered?
  2. What toxic stinky-thinky do you need to be healed from your heart?
  3. What beauty and/or purpose needs to be released, unfurled, from your heart?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Fran on Unsplash

Apr 08, 2021
Dreams, Visions, and Revelations. How they can help
13:26

Dreams, visions, and revelations are part of our lives, but what do we do with them? We can treasure them and find their help.

Each night as I am about to sleep, I pray a simple two-word prayer – ‘Spirit come.’ I then emotionally see myself being cocooned inside wide and welcoming arms like a little child that needs deep love and assurance.

I have puzzled over why these are the two words I pray, and I think it’s the desire to enter my new day within the embrace of Spirit (Holy).

See more about entering your day by going to sleep here.

I generally drift off in this prayerful embrace, but a few nights ago, I met a crocodile.

The Crocodile and The Christ

I was going to sleep, well I was trying to go to sleep, but my heart was anxious. Deep thoughts of worry and fear were bubbling around.

That’s when I saw the crocodile. It was kind of a vision, a pulling back of the curtain and seeing beyond what I would not normally see.

It was sitting in a swamp some way off, and then it saw me. It turned and slowly began crawling towards me. I couldn’t move as if I was mesmerized by it.

It was now racing towards me. Mud flying everywhere. That large tail was swishing and smashing everything in its path.

I was filled with panic and fear. I was going to be mauled by this huge beast.

I cried out, ‘Jesus, help me.

In an instant, there was a strong right foot standing on the crocodile’s head, pushing it into the mud. It writhed back and forth but couldn’t get free. Meanwhile, the foot remained steady, strong, and seemingly effortless in its action.

I looked up to see who this was. My heart knew at once. Hearts have a way of recognizing true friends.

It was the Christ. By the way, Christ is not a surname; it’s a title, a designation, a certainty. It means ‘anointed.’

This was the Christ that I think John saw when he wrote his Revelation.

But in my vision, he was tall, thin, and had the appearance of what I have seen in many icons—stoic, authority, strong.

It was the Christ who had been there done that. He wasn’t all macho and superhero; he knew his authority without having to parade it. There was a kind of Clint Eastwood stanch – ‘Go ahead punk (crocodile), make my day.’

I looked again at that crocodile, and it was still writhing and wrestling, but the foot just kept it there. Steady and strong, firm and weighty.

Then I looked at the Christ, and he was holding a scepter in his hand. It wasn’t a fancy one with gold and diamonds, more so it was a plain stick. It was worn and ancient old. But it carried the authority that all scepters hold. It’s was the one scepter to rule them all as such.

Jesus, the Christ, had won it all.

He was not going to allow anything to attack me. All I had to do was cry out.

I felt secure that I was known and held, that nothing could consume me.

This was the Christ of the now. The one who has risen and was ruling.

Dreams, visions, and revelations.

I think it’s important to take notice of your dreams, visions, and revelations.

Those moments where seemingly the curtain is pulled back, and we get a glimpse into something beyond the here and now.

I’ve not had many experiences as vivid as the Crocodile and the Christ, but I’ve had enough to know that they should be taken notice of. To hold them and listen to the emotional message they carry.

As I reflected on the vision, there were emotional components that needed to be taken in deeply. Fear met with overwhelming assurance. Vulnerability is embraced with being known.

The Bible is full of dreams, visions, and revelations. It seems to be a method God uses to cut through the clutter of our rational thinking. Starving Cows, full cows, fiery wheels, spinning stars, all pointing us to something beyond our ‘this present moment’ understanding.

One of my favorites is the eye-opening experience of Gehazi, the servant of Elisha.

Early in the morning a servant of the Holy Man got up and went out. Surprise! Horses and chariots surrounding the city! The young man exclaimed, “Oh, master! What shall we do?”

He said, “Don’t worry about it—there are more on our side than on their side.”

Then Elisha prayed, “O God, open his eyes and let him see.”

The eyes of the young man were opened and he saw. A wonder! The whole mountainside full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding Elisha!  2 Kings 6:15-17

It’s interesting to note that the name Gehazi means ‘valley of vision.  Perhaps his vision was limited to the logic of the known valley walls. So many are like him.

But I wonder what happened at a heart level in Gehazi. I suspect that emotions of assurance superseded the emotions of fear.

Right brain, left brain.

Are you more right-brain-orientated or left-brain orientated? We need both.

There is a whole science about the differences in the left and right brain hemispheres of the brain. Read more here

Basically, though, the different sides of the brain have different functions.

Healthline explains the difference.

The left brain is more verbal, analytical, and orderly than the right brain. It’s sometimes called the digital brain. It’s better at things like reading, writing, and computations.

The left brain is also connected to logic, sequencing, linear thinking, mathematics, facts, thinking in words. 

The right brain is more visual and intuitive. It’s sometimes referred to as the analog brain. It has a more creative and less organized way of thinking.

The right brain is also connected to imagination, holistic thinking, intuition, arts, rhythm, nonverbal cues, feelings visualization, daydreaming. Healthline

Where do you see the expression of dreams, visions, and revelations? The right side of the brain, but which side of the brain is often used to understand dreams, visions, and revelations. The left side of the brain.

How many books and sermons have been written to analyze and codify the dreams, visions, and revelations in the Bible. We try to make a prescription out of a description.

I would love to sit with some of those in the Bible who experienced dreams, visions, and revelations and go into the right brain experience with them.

What happened in you, Gehazi, when you saw the chariots of fire? What shifted in your heart? How do you understand God differently now?

Going right brain in your dreams, visions, and revelations

I use a little acronym when I have a ‘pulling back of the curtain’ experience. It’s T.T.A.Q. (Title, Theme, Affect, Questions)

  • Title. Always give it a title. It is a short story or movie and deserves a title. The act of choosing a title offers insight into the meaning of your dream.
  • Theme. What is it principally about? This is a short phrase that describes the topic. If it was a movie, would it be a thriller, a comedy, a romance? Ask God to help you identify the overall theme.
  • Affect. What was the emotional affect expressed in it? What were the feelings felt by the principal character in the story or movie? Were there certain emotions expressed by others? What feelings did you experience when you awoke? Describe the emotional tone or impact of the dream.
  • Questions. What questions does the story seem to be asking of you? The authors of this technique suggest you listen to the story as if it were a friend asking you a meaningful question. The act of formulating the question/s will give an interpretation.

The second thing I would highly recommend to do after T.T.A.Q. is to simply sit with the new expression. Be like Mary, who ‘treasured up’ all her discoveries about the Christ in her heart.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

In that pondering and treasuring, our hearts and minds change and become more open to seeing new revelations of the Christ in our everyday life.

Quotes to consider
  • The absolute center of what God does to help us change is to reveal himself to us. Larry Crabb Connecting
  • Sleep is God’s contrivance for giving us the help he cannot get into us when we are awake. George MacDonald
  • If you attend the soul closely enough, with an educated and steadfast imagination, changes take place without your being aware of them until they are all over and well in place. Thomas Moore Care of the Soul
  • Causal thinking usually obstructs imagistic reflection. Thomas Moore Care of the Soul
Questions to answer
  1. What do you do with your dreams, visions, and revelations?
  2. A millimeter step is often required to be taken to begin exploring your dreams. What would that be for you? Keeping a small journal near your bed?
  3. What do you pray before going to sleep? How are you entering your new day?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Apr 08, 2021
When God is like a Drill Sergeant
12:49

For many, God can be like a drill sergeant, demanding and harsh, but that is a flawed understanding of God. When we look closely at the diamond, we can see other facets.

If you follow the rules and commands, then everything will be ok. Step out of line and watch out.

I’ve talked with many people about their understanding of what God is like, and after much discussion, we often hone the description down to being one of God being like a Drill Sergeant.

It’s a heart description; it’s how they feel about God. They may have an intellectual knowledge of God being love and compassion etc., but when you get down to a metaphor to describe God, it’s something akin to being like a drill sergeant.

That drill sergeant is going to push you. Shouting at you until you get it perfectly right. There are rules, and you need to keep them.

A drill sergeant is going to break down any personal disobedience in you until you become a machine. They issue a command, and you follow with absolute automation. The army swivels on a single command.

When I was a child, I was taught songs with titles such as ‘I’m in the Lord’s army’ and hymns such as ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’

All very military orientated. Orderly, displaying God as a commander in chief.

When God is both commander in chief and drill sergeant, then you better follow the rules. No room for humanity or compassion.

Your parents, your church

Probably the most dominant influencing factors on our earliest beliefs about God come from our parental figures. Stern fathers and mothers. Punishment for breaking the rules.

Black and white. You’re in, or you’re out.

Then Church (read organized religion) comes with its set of dogmas and rules on living a ‘godly life.  We like certainty and direction, so we listen to the preacher and the Sunday school teacher warning us about the perils of stepping out of rank.

I remember from childhood days seeing pictures of people being thrown into Hell’s fires and multi-horned beasts. Some highly creative artists had drawn Revelation’s book into a weekly digest useful for scaring small children!

We’re all looking for someone.

I suppose we are all looking for someone to tell us what to do.

We all want someone to give us the command of what to do next. Do I pivot right, left, stand to attention, or be at ease.

Certainty, please, not a mystery.

In our hearts, maybe, we are looking for a Drill sergeant—a kind one.

And that is the real need: kindness and compassion.

Someone who will say

‘I see you’re struggling with the push-ups. Here, let me do them with you. And if you can’t do them, I will do them perfectly on your behalf.

Actually, I already have done them, but I know that doing the push-ups will help you grow in my likeness.

Let’s do them together at a grace/ pace you can handle.’

Every effort you make to try and impress the Drill Sergeant God is rather laughable.

He’s already done it for you on your behalf and in perfect formation. No more medals to be earned or brownie points to be gained.

It’s all about love and grace now.

Facets of a diamond

A metaphor that helps me understand what God is like is that of a beautifully cut diamond.

It has many facets or edges cut to give a face for light to both bounce off and penetrate and radiate out of.

Every facet has a different quality, but it is all part of the same diamond. It’s a part of a whole.

Yes, there is an element of God being like a drill sergeant, but if that is all that has captured our attention, then we are missing the whole beauty of the diamond.

I want to enjoy the whole diamond: every facet, every face. I don’t want to be enchanted and mesmerized by only one. Give me the whole of the diamond.

Yes, there are spiritual disciplines that can help my formation, but if the discipline becomes the object of worship, I have truly lost the alluring power and delight of God’s beauty.

Maybe another facet of God is that of a lover alluring us to be with them.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14

No drill sergeant there, but another diamond facet of expression.

Where you focus

On our country roads here in New Zealand are signs with a motorcyclist going around a corner. The words on the sign say, ‘Where you focus, you will go.’ It’s a warning about being distracted.

Perhaps with a lifetime focus on God being like a drill sergeant, it has taken you away from knowing a God of compassion and love. It becomes a relationship of doing the right thing instead of discovering a new enchanting facet.

What would it be like to stop and shift your focus for a moment?

Begin to at a heart level, become open to the possibility of other facets of God’s nature shining light and life into your soul.

Quotes to consider
  • If your religion does not transform your consciousness to one of compassion, it is more a part of the problem than any solution. Richard Rohr.  Immortal Diamond: The search for our true self
  • God’s method is neither to merely issue commands from the general’s tent (do what’s right) nor to improve the functioning of diseased organs (fix what’s wrong). Instead he becomes so intimately a part of us that we want to resist whatever he doesn’t like and release the good things he has aroused within us. LarryCrabb. Connecting.
  • God no longer stands in front of us, drill-sergeant style, barking orders. He is now inside us, whispering with attractive authority that it’s time to hit the deck and do fifty push-ups. And now we want to do it, not because the activity itself is fun, but because it fits our nature (we’re soldiers) and we enjoy pleasing our commander (we love him). Larry Crabb. Connecting
  • Groups tend to emphasize accountability when they don’t know how to relate. Better behavior through exhortation isn’t the solution, though it sometimes is part of it. Larry Crabb Connecting
Questions to answer
  1. What is a dominant image or facet that defines what God is like to you?
  2. How much have parental figures and organized religious experiences contributed to your understanding of what God is like?
  3. What does your heart most need to hear right now?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Carlos Lindner on Unsplash

 

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Barry is a writer, coach, online pastor, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

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Mar 17, 2021
Being Formed as a Little Child
09:20

Being formed like a little child is something Jesus wants us to do, but how are we to do this as adults? Perhaps it’s by surrender to the potter’s hand.

Probably the most joyous gift to our family over recent years has been the addition of a new family member. Twenty-two months ago – in May 2019, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful little girl called Eliza.

We have so delighted to see her grow and develop as a beautiful little child.

She is being formed.

I see her quite often, and every time I see changes that have happened since the last Poppa time. New words, expressions, confidences, likes, and dislikes.

It’s like she is a sponge soaking up everything her world has to offer.

If we were to look into her brain, we would see incredible neurological growth.

New learnings require new pathways, and even now, at this early age, old ways that once served her well are being disregarded with the ways that serve her better. For a brief time, it was crawling, but now that has been superseded by walking. Soon she will be running!

It’s no wonder that little children need to sleep so much. All that brain activity and change going on. The brain needs to catch up and settle things into place.

I have also found that adults going through times of change, and perhaps deep therapy, also get tired. There is so much unlearning and relearning going on that it takes time and energy.

Becoming like a child

There is a difference between knowledge and knowing.

I have met many people I would say have a great deal of knowledge but very little knowing. In talking about God, they can quote this theologian, that book, history, and philosophy, but there is little intimate childlike knowing of God.

Limited awareness of coming to God like a loving Papa or Mama.

Jesus found this all the time. Even with his closest followers.

They wanted to know who is the world champion of spirituality. Was it Abraham? Perhaps Moses?

Today we might ask if it was one of our own personal faith superheroes – C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, name your favorite here.

Typical Jesus threw them a curveball.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:1-5

Two words spring to my attention. Change and become.

Those early listeners would have heard ‘strephó’ and ‘ginomai.’

  • strephó – to turn (transition); (figuratively) to convert by changing (switching) direction, i.e., go the other way (an “about-face”); taking an opposite or divergent course.
  • ginomai – to emerge, become, transitioning from one point (realm, condition) to another.

The other interesting word is the word for children – paidíon

  • paidíon – a child under training

This ‘child under training’ is going to be doing the twist and turn in its becoming.

You’re being formed, informed, reformed, transformed.

I keep thinking of a clay pot being formed on a potter’s wheel.

Around and around it goes. A little water is added here and there. The fingers work into the pot, and the pot responds.

I like to think of myself as being on that spinning wheel. Slowly moving and turning, I feel the influence of the master craftsman against my earthy life.

They have a vision of who and what I will become.

It’s a lifetime artwork for them. They press against my clay, and I respond. I push back, they pull back, they move in, and I move out.

I suppose it’s a kind of a dance.

Something both beautiful and functional is being crafted. I am being formed. I am like a child open to their movement and form.

O Lord, you are our Father.     We are the clay, and you are the potter.     We all are formed by your hand. Isaiah 64:8

The invite

The invite as adults is to become like ‘children in training.’ To admit, some of the things we learned as children need to be reexamined with new information.

Were all your childhood conclusions perfectly correct?

We become like children again and open ourselves like sponges to new ways of thinking. We are transformed by the renewal of our mind Romans 12:2.

Quotes to consider
  • metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr 
  • I’m being formed every day. I’m being formed by the social media that I consume. I’m being formed by my parents. Even if my parents are not even alive, I’m being formed by their memory.  And so the question is, what are the things in the world that are gonna form me. Dr. Curt Thompson. Being Known podcast 
  • Immature spirituality focuses on experience.  Mature spirituality focuses on seeing and knowing.  David Benner
  • We best worship our relational trinitarian God by actively yielding to the Holy Spirit’s slow and sometimes painful work of spiritually, relationally, forming our hearts, souls, and minds. Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
  1. What’s it like to be considered as a lump of clay being molded and formed?
  2. To be a ‘child in training’ requires a certain openness and receptivity to new information. How open are you to the idea that not all conclusions about life are actually correct?
  3. Who has had a positive forming experience on your life of clay?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Balaji Malliswamy on Unsplash

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Mar 14, 2021
A Tribute to a Friend – Dr. Larry Crabb
17:48

It was a time to pivot, change, alter course. Dr. Larry Crabb met me at the junction. Larry went to be with his Papa, Jesus, and Spirit on Sunday, February 28, 2021.

There are times I believe that God brings people across our path that have a long-lasting impact on our journey.

I had just begun my pastoral ministry in 1998. I had the role of being a Community Chaplain in a large church where my focus was to provide pastoral care for those in our local area that had significant Mental Illnesses and disabilities.

I was to develop a church community where people could come and feel at home. Teaching, pastoral care, and support that was specifically focused on the needs of this community.

Prior to this, I had been a support worker helping people with serious Mental Illnesses with their daily lives.

Over and over again, I would see them try to be part of Church communities only to see them not truly connect.

Some church people would rescue them, preach at them, moralize them, and tell them to ‘try harder.’

In the end, Churches and the people in them weren’t safe.

I was then handed a book by a former student of Dr. Larry Crabb. The book was Connecting. Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships

In this book, Larry also talks about a pivot in this thinking. A subtle shift away from psychology to what he would later call Soul Care.

In recent days, I have made a shift. I am now working toward the day when communities of God’s people, ordinary Christians whose lives regularly intersect, will accomplish most of the good that we now depend on mental health professionals to provide. And they will do it by connecting with each other in ways that only the gospel makes possible.

I envision a community of people who intentionally mingle in settings where these nutrients are passed back and forth, where I pour into you the healing resources within me and you pour into me what God has put in you.

But that’s not what I’m doing. I have strong reason to suspect that Christians sitting dutifully in church congregations, for whom “going to church” means doing a variety of spiritual activities, have been given resources that if released could powerfully heal broken hearts, overcome the damage done by abusive backgrounds, encourage the depressed to courageously move forward, stimulate the lonely to reach out, revitalize discouraged teens and children with new and holy energy, and introduce hope into the lives of the countless people who feel rejected, alone, and useless.

Maybe “going to church,” more than anything else, means relating to several people in your life differently. Maybe the center of Christian community is connecting with a few.

Beneath what our culture calls psychological disorder is a soul crying out for what only community can provide. There is no “disorder” requiring “treatment.” And, contrary to hard-line moralism, there is more to our struggles than a stubborn will needing firm admonishment. Beneath all our problems, there are desperately hurting souls that must find the nourishment only community can provide—or die.

We must do something other than train professional experts to fix damaged psyches. Damaged psyches aren’t the problem.

The problem beneath our struggles is a disconnected soul. And we must do something more than exhort people to do what’s right and then hold them accountable. Groups tend to emphasize accountability when they don’t know how to relate. Better behavior through exhortation isn’t the solution, though it sometimes is part of it. Rather than fixing psyches or scolding sinners, we must provide nourishment for the disconnected soul that only a community of connected people can offer.

The crisis of care in modern culture, especially in the Western church, will not be resolved by training more therapists.

We do not need a counseling center on every corner.

It will be worsened by moralists who never reach deeply into the hearts of people in their efforts to impose their standards of behavior on others, even when those standards are biblical.

The greatest need in modern civilization is the development of communities— true communities where the heart of God is home, where the humble and wise learn to shepherd those on the path behind them, where trusting strugglers lock arms with others as together they journey on. Dr. Larry Crabb. Connecting. Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships.

I was hooked.

He had connected with the thoughts and ideas swirling around in my thinking.

From there, I read everything I could lay my hands on. He was my mentor. I traveled from here in New Zealand to Colorado Springs twice to sit under his teaching.

I don’t believe anyone else has influenced me so greatly in my spiritual formation as Larry.

The picture that captures us

Recently there has been a huge outpouring of love and memories on the Larry Crabb Appreciation club. Images shared, and stories told.

One image speaks so much.

Larry Crabb by Janet Trenda

‘A sweet memory from my time at SSD [School of Spiritual Direction]- catching Larry early in the morning handwriting, rewriting- his notes for the day. His passion and dedication are clearly shown here’. Janet Trenda

A special memory for me was when I attended the School of Spiritual Direction in 2004 at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs.

I had a very special one-to-one session with Larry. I went into this lovely lounge where Larry took off his shoes, put his feet up on the coffee table, and we had a chat.

Then the thunder rolled. In those Rocky mountains, the thunderclaps were incredible. I have never heard thunder like it.

I don’t remember much of what was said, but I do remember the atmosphere Larry brought to our time. Relaxed, friendly, gently inquisitive, unforced, shoes off, and love.

Quotes

Over the years, I have collected many quotes from the writings of Larry Crabb. Many of which have been sp[rinkled through the blog posts.

Here are but a few.

    • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
    • God has solutions for people who admit they have problems. Larry Crabb
    • Our primary purpose is not to use God to solve our problems, but to move through our problems toward finding God. Larry Crabb
    • A marriage bound together by commitments to exploit the other for filling one’s own needs (and I fear that most marriages are built on such a basis) can legitimately be described as a “tic on a dog” relationship. Just as a hungry tic clamps on to a nourishing host in anticipation of a meal, so each partner unites with the other in the expectation of finding what his or her personal nature demands. The rather frustrating dilemma, of course, is that in such a marriage there are two tics and no dog! Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder
    • Spiritual friends see a facet of Christ in us and bring it out as no one else can. And they delight to do so. When they see what is unique about us, it causes them great delight; and then, giving away to the powers of daring imagination, they envision what we could become. The vision excites them – with Paul, they see us where we are and feel the pains of labor till Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Larry Crabb. The Safest Place on Earth
    • Brokenness is a condition, one that is always there, inside, beneath the surface, carefully hidden for as long as we can keep a facade in place. We live in brokenness. We just don’t always see it, either in ourselves or in others. Larry Crabb
    • A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own, and reveal our brokenness. Larry Crabb
    • Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb
    Larry Crabb Appreciation Club

    As an administrator of the Appreciation Club on Facebook, I recently asked the members for their favorite quotes and sentences.

    Here are a few of them.

  • Where is your red dot?
  • “Confused people listen better.”
  • May we learn to dance with the Trinity!
  • “Put Jesus on display.”
  • Make a Margin for Uncertainty: Open Heart: Women are created to be relationally open and inviting!
  • “Hush God is in it” by his late grandfather.
  • “We have all been sinned against. We all sin. You have failed to love me as you should, and I have failed to love you. Your failure to love me is painful, sometimes profoundly disappointing. But the Lord‘s love for me is perfect. Although his love does not remove the sting of your failure, it gives me all I need to stand as a whole person, capable of loving you regardless of the threat of your further failure.” From Inside Out. 
  • Too many marriages are like two ticks and no dog. 
  • God meets you where you really are – not where you think you should be.
  •  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1.‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.’” Larry Crabb
  • The greatest lie believed today is that one can know God without being known by someone else. Larry Crabb Soul Talk
  • The compelling vision is . . . maybe, because of our conversations, we can want God more than we want any lesser blessing. Larry Crabb 
  • “Demand nothing here. Expect everything there. Surrender all rights to justice, to loving treatment from others to fulfilling ministry, to all the good things of this life, and you will be given tastes of the good things to come. That is how you taste the Lord and discover that He is good. It is those tastes that fill you with sustaining hope until you’re welcomed to the banquet.” 
  • “Embrace your Inadequacy.”
  • “Your pain is the distance between what you were created to have, Eden, and what you have now. Our hearts groan in anticipation of what lies ahead, our true home, heaven.”

Larger Story

As part of planning to continue his legacy of teaching, a few years ago, Larry’s son Kep established a new ministry called Larger Story.

Larger Story will serve as the legacy of the thinking and writing and training and counseling I’ve been doing now for 50 years. Larry Crabb

At Larger Story, they have amassed the many books, countless sermons and talks, and numerous videos Larry has done.

Find out more about Larger Story here. 

Hot coffee and Elvis

A few final thoughts.

Larry liked his coffee hot!

He also enjoyed Elvis and slow dancing with his students while singing ‘Are you lonesome tonight.’

The final sentence in his last book ‘Waiting for Heaven‘ was this.

Over time, anticipate becoming aware of actually meeting Jesus, face to face, and allow the “sheer delight” to move you toward WAITING FOR HEAVEN.

Thank you, Larry. Enjoy the sheer delight of being with Jesus face to face.

Barry Pearman

 

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Mar 05, 2021
The Healing Nest of Kindness and Compassion
17:23

I need a nest that I can call home. Actually, digging down a little further, I need a grouping of relationships that know me, love me, and have compassion and kindness when I get things wrong.

The other day I was pruning a vine and there high above my head was a nest. It had long been vacated. I’m not sure what type of bird built this elaborate structure to raise its young, but as I looked closer, there was an intricate architecture to the design.

Twigs, grasses, moss, lichen all gathered and foraged from around the garden and woven into a home.

Here are some pictures of the nest.

  

With the ancient wisdom that had somehow been passed on from bird to bird, there was divine craftsmanship taking place here.  Every little fiber had been laid down for one purpose – to nurture the growth of the fragile.

Our Nest

We all have a nest around us. We may not realize it, but there are people all around us that provide some twig of support. It could be the professionals such as Doctors, nurses, therapists, etc., but most likely, the ones who provide the greatest influence are those that we come into contact with the most—our family, friends, workmates.

It’s a nest, a community. Oh, and yes, we are part of others’ support structures, their nest. It’s the ‘and next to them’ feature we see coming through from the rebuild of a broken wall in the story of Nehemiah.

I remember a counselor once contacting me about one of his clients that needed a nest. It wasn’t a physical nest but more a social-relational type of nest.

His client needed different people with different skills, wisdom, and life experiences to help his client to heal.

He had already assembled people such as a doctor, psychiatrist, and other mental health professionals. Still, he felt his client also needed a pastor and church community that understood the complexities of mental illness and recovery—real people living real lives.

So, over time, other people were added.

People with similar interests and hobbies. Some had backgrounds related to Mental Health, but many did not.

Some would go out for a coffee and have fun with them.

There was a kind of divine creativity going on to the building of their nest.

What surprised them was that they had something to contribute to the nest of others. From their lived wisdom, they were able to add strength to the growth of others.

A Road, a Ditch, an Inn

Jesus once told the story of a man that the brutality of robbers had dehumanized. They saw him only for what he had, not for who he was.

“There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

“A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” Luke 10:25-37

There are many observations we could take from this wonderful parable. You can read more by reading an essay I wrote many years ago called ‘The Dehumanising Effects of Sexual Abuse.’ 

Nest principles

 1.There are some you don’t want in your nest. 

In the story, we see the Priest and Levite walking past.

Avoiding, not wanting to touch, and come close. For them, it was all about following the rules, the codes of moral and religious conduct. It was to be seen as holy and pure, but not to touch and know.

Religion can kill compassion. It can encourage a ‘holier than thou’ contempt with no desire to get down into the dirt of others’ pain. There is a focus on Justice (he/ she shouldn’t have done ….) rather than on Mercy and Grace.

We probably all have people we know that are like that.

 2. There are some with ‘Lived truth.’

Here comes a Samaritan. Someone who in Jesus’ time definitely was on the outside of the Jewish society’s moral and religious purity. Samaritans were shunned and rejected.

This parable samaritan would have known exactly how it felt cast into a racial and religious prejudice ditch of existence.

But for the Samaritan, there were no rules, no boundaries, and no cultural taboos that inhibited him from helping.

In his own ditch, he would have learned lived truth.

I was once told this quote by someone who had been thrown in the ditch many times.

Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth. We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody

Sadly, much of my spiritual journey has been influenced by people full of unlived truth. The really good stuff comes from when you get into the ditch’s dirt and listen to the stories. If you want to understand coal, go work at the coal face.

3. It’s about heart, compassion, and kindness. 

I have received compassion and kindness, and it’s sweet good news on a tired and battered soul.

Where we read that the Samaritans ‘heart went out to him’ we see that Jesus was using the Greek word ‘splanchnizomai.’

It comes from the Greek word (splanchna), for entrails, the vital inner organs of a person—the stomach, heart, lungs, spleen, liver, and kidneys.

It means to say that he had a feeling deep in his gut, the deepest of all human emotions.

I want the strands of my nest to be made up of people who have compassion and kindness. Not avoidance and judgment.

4. Innkeepers

I’m glad that Jesus added someone else to the parable. Someone other than the singularity of the samaritan. We need others who have compassionate skills and resources to offer in the structure of the nest.

We know very little about the Inn or the Innkeeper other than he was another strand in the healing nest of this broken man.

All of us can be ‘Innkeepers.’ We add various aspects of lived truth to each other.

Your Nest, Your Home

Who is in your social grouping nest? Are there people that have a heart of love and compassion for you?

All those thousands of strands of twigs, moss, and leaves all contribute something in their own unique way.

Make a list of people. Try and get to at least a hundred names.

Then give thanks for them. Honour probably the unseen and unknown contribution they make to the nest you have.

Look for the gifts they offer, the strength, love, and compassion.

Then give that back to them and others.

We all need each other, and every little bit of heartfelt love, compassion, and kindness is restorative.

 

Quotes to consider
  • A spiritual leader who lacks basic human compassion has almost no power to change other people, because people intuitively know he or she does not represent the Divine or Big Truth. Such leaders have to rely upon role, laws, and enforcement powers to effect any change in others. Such change does not go deep, nor does it last. Richard Rohr
  • No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love. Henri Nouwen inner voice of love
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • A refuge is anything that protects, nurtures, or uplifts you. Life can be hard, and everyone has difficult, uncomfortable experiences. We all need refuges. What are your own? Rick Hanson
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ”What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis
Questions to answer
  1. Who makes up the strands of your nest?
  2. You are a strand in someone else’s nest. What kindness can you offer them today?
  3. Picture yourself as the Innkeeper receiving the victim of abuse and crime. What goes through your heart? What emotions get stirred? In the offering of being a strand in this man’s nest, what would you like to give him?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

 

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Barry is a writer, coach, online pastor, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

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Feb 24, 2021
The Gentle Approach to Heart and Mind Change
11:50

There is a gentle approach to how the heart and mind can change. Instead of the force of a flood, it’s a refreshing rain. Let’s learn to absorb the goodness.

There is something very special to me about a nice soft rain shower in the middle of a dry summer. It soaks in, and the soil receives it as a gift of gentleness.

I have been involved in land-based businesses for many years. Gardening, horticulture, and farming. It’s those sweet, gentle summer rains that bring such refreshment.

Being like a sponge, the soil soaks up every drop. Then the microbes, fungi, bacteria, worms, and all the unseen world beneath our feet are replenished. Seeds germinate, trees flush with newness, and the land feels like it has been gently washed.

But it’s the downpours you have to watch for. Torrents of rain so heavy that they wash off the land, scouring hills, blocking drains, and flooding houses.

Learning and changing can be much like that.

Have you ever done a course of learning where it has been super intensive? That week-long course or maybe over a weekend.

You have had a downpour of information, and you come away exhausted by the amount you have been exposed to.

Your brain is at maximum capacity, and perhaps you wonder how much you actually took in. All those new learning bridges take energy and focus.

Gentle rain on the heart and mind

There is a gentleness on offer to help us in our need.

Slowly read and absorb these words that God speaks about how they provide wisdom for us.

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;     let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop like the rain,     my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass,     like showers on new growth. Deuteronomy 32:1, 2

It’s gentle and kind—washing and cleansing with kindness.

It’s not the volume that matters; instead, it’s the quiet presence of refreshment.

The droplet, not the drowning.

You’re soaking in it

Back in the 1980s here in New Zealand, there was a T.V. advertisement for Palmolive dishwashing liquid. The idea was that as you washed your dishes, the dishwashing liquid was also kind on your hands.

The one-liner from the ad was ‘You’re soaking in it.’

I want to be soaked in God’s kindness and wisdom. To be receptive to the gentleness of Spirit brings me the wisdom my heart and mind are thirsty for.

I want to hear and soak in the unforced rhythms of grace.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

The walk

Can I walk with you? I have some questions about what has happened and need to talk them over.

So we headed off to our little town. Questions opened our hearts to new ways of thinking and believing. All the events of the last few days were puzzling, to say the least.

Then another traveler joined us. He gave us some explanations and asked us questions. It was like fresh encouragement filling our dried-out souls. We had a meal with him and soaked up his kindness and love. It felt like a burning warmth in our hearts. Luke 24:13-35

Why aren’t we there yet?

We are quite a demanding people, aren’t we. We want change, and we want it on our terms.

In our minds, there is a timeline of expectation.

How many times do those providing therapy, spiritual direction, pastoral ministry, etc., hear these words.

‘I’ve been coming to you for so many sessions, and nothing seems to have changed.’ Why aren’t things better!’

Perhaps also you have made the recovery process a job, a work, a demand.

Absorbing the milliliter

Much of the deep work that we so desperately need does not come with a flood. We couldn’t handle it if it did. Instead, it comes as a trickle, a droplet, a milliliter of goodness.

It might be a little word that meditatively speaks to something we are struggling with. That Rhema word – The Right Word at the Right Time

As we mindfully ruminate and ponder on this droplet of goodness, things start to happen in the inner workings of our soul. New connections are made in the brain.

Powerful beliefs that have held us captive start to lose their strength. New avenues open up to us to explore. It’s endlessly mysterious and good.

Reread this passage and imagine yourself

May my teaching drop like the rain,     my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass,     like showers on new growth.

Video Player     00:00   00:16    

There is a gentle approach to how the heart and mind can change. Instead of the force of a flood, it’s a refreshing rain. Let’s learn to absorb the goodness.

Quotes to consider
  • The really great truths, like love and inner freedom, are not fully conceptual, and they can never be understood by reason alone. Richard Rohr Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality
  • Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest. Mark Buchanan
  • What profoundly saddens me is that most Christians have settled for beliefs instead of knowing. David Benner
  • The soul doesn’t develop in a straight line but in stages, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Imagine your life as a series of initiations, as you go from one life-changing experience to the next. Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
  • An intent to heal can get in the way of seeing. By doing less, more is accomplished. Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
  • To feel and imagine may not sound like much. But in care of the soul there is trust that nature heals, that much can be accomplished by not-doing. Thomas Moore. Care of the Soul Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
Questions to consider
  1. What is it like to be ‘flooded’ with knowledge?
  2. Is there a particular verse or word that speaks to you from the passage? Let it soak in. May my teaching drop like the rain,     my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass,     like showers on new growth.
  3. Why do we try and force something that God wants us to absorb slowly?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

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Feb 17, 2021
When You Find Yourself in a Dark Hole, Start Digging
14:58

When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement.

It was a hole that I had fallen into. I was in a deep dark hole where the sun didn’t seem to reach.

That is what a mental illness can be like—All-consuming, overwhelming, and a  ‘blocking out’ of the reality of anything possibly being different. The fog bank is all-consuming.

I was in a hole, but I was not alone. Alongside though were bible characters who had also been in a similar place. Elijah, Moses, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, Naomi, Paul, Peter, Judas, to name the ones that we know of that had emotional struggles. Even Jesus struggled with his dark night of anguish and a time when the sun refused to shine.

God handed me a spade and encouraged me to start digging.

The Anonymous Hole Dweller

One of the interesting observations I have made from blogging for many years now is that there are many people that I would call ‘Anonymous Hole Dwellers’. They know they are struggling; they want help but don’t want others to know about it.

It’s a privacy thing.

I’ll solve this on my own, D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself), and there is a fear of what others will think and how they will react.

So they reach out to find help on the internet. They Google search their pain-filled questions, see a page or two here on Turning the Page, spend some reading, and then they are gone.

They remain anonymous – unknown.

I want to give them a spade and encourage them to dig. Perhaps Turning the Page can offer a couple of footholds for their journey up and out.

The spade

To me, a spade represents hard manual labor. I’ve used a spade many times. In fact, I own about six of them. Each of them slightly different and suited for various tasks.

I have dug so many holes and drains that I know the feel of a good spade.

It’s dirty work: sweat, mud, and tired muscles. You cut the turf, push the steel into the soil and wedge the dirt out. Then you do it again and again.

Over time you make progress. You gain a sense of satisfaction at the progress made. It’s tangible and real.

But I don’t know of anybody that gets excited about digging.

It’s much like what this quote says about opportunity.

The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work. Thomas Edison?

Most people I have found don’t want to wear overalls and pick up the spade and do the work. Some people have become so used to their hole that they have made it their home. Decorating the walls with internalized victim stories, they live in an echo chamber of past events. Critical voices keep them from looking up.

When God hands you a spade

Let’s go back to that dark hole.

You are at the base of a deep dark hole, and the only way out is up.

So a spade is in your hand. You grasp that spade, and you start to chip and dig away at the walls of the hole.

After a little while, you have dug out a small hole big enough to put your foot in.

Then you dig another hole in the wall for your hand to grasp on to. You do this over and over again until you have dug a ladder, as such, out of the hole.

You climb a little, and you dig a little. Dirt is filling in the hole under you. You are sensing the light above filling your senses. Hope is beginning to rise in you.

You dig a millimeter more. You slip now and then, but because it’s your hole and it’s you that is doing the digging, you progress on.

With every successful notch made and elevation gained, something is changing in your brain. The electrical pathways are becoming more positive.

The way you used to think becomes a distant memory.

There is a new you that is emerging. Stronger, deeper, and more centered.

There is a resilience to your nature so that when the winds and storms of life blow, you don’t buckle. You bend and move with the flow.

It’s a millimeter foothold.

I like to think of recovery as millimeter ministry. It’s small enough to make it feasible and highly achievable.

What are some millimeters?

  • reading your thinking compass every day
  • taking medication (if prescribed) every day
  • doing something nice for you every day
  • going to bed at a regular time every day
  • meditating on some Bible verses every day
  • getting pragmatic about some of the pressures bearing down on you everyday
  • problem-solving rather than problem dwelling everyday
  • exercising a little every day
  • nurturing the beautiful and meaningful in you every day

It’s an ‘every day’ rhythm of digging a little bit each day. Habits, patterns, and practices changing your life.

I will cheer on your digging

I’m not going to rescue you from your hole, but I want to cheer on the progress and offer suggestions.

I have noticed that rescuers and quick-fix merchants often have a need in themselves that they want to fulfill. Instead, I will encourage the millimeter that turns into a centimeter.

I have a hole of my own, which is my responsibility. You can cheer me on and fuel my heart with whispers of courage.

Let’s dig together

In my book ‘Broken to built,’ I reflect on how Jerusalem’s wall was rebuilt after devastating destruction with an ‘And next to them’ attitude.

It’s an awareness of others next to us in our rebuilding and digging.

It’s hard, dirty, and often thankless work. But there is a beauty and wonder at the progress made when the dig is focused and alive.

When you’re in a dark hole, it can feel like there is a loss of hope, but you can dig yourself out with some wisdom and encouragement.

Quotes to consider
  • Only a secure person can empower others. Those who have to remain in control can never let go long enough to allow others to make mistakes and learn from them. David Riddell
  • Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt.  Rick Hanson
  • Metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr
  • Every ‘rescuer’ needs to know that sometimes people will need to feel worse before they can feel better. D. Riddell  
Questions to answer
  1. What does your hole look like?
  2. What is a millimeter foothold that you can dig today?
  3. Why do some people like to decorate their holes and make them their homes?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Mari Potter on Unsplash

 

 

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Feb 14, 2021
You’re so angry and it’s going to help you
14:01

Why you get so angry can give a clear direction about who you truly are. It’s a matter of the heart. Your anger can indicate what you hold most dear.

As they became more whole, the anger started to simmer, then boil, and then it flowed over the containment of their life. It was, in a frightening way, beautiful and needed to happen.

Anger can be highly destructive. But flowing out without constraint can damage and burn. We all have this capacity to pour out our emotions of being hurt, mistreated, abused.

Some of the deepest hurts come from those we are in the closest relationship to. Those who we would hope and expect to know our hearts are often the ones who will not listen and show love and respect to our tender places.

I think of the patterns we set up so young to defend that tender heart. A little bruise, and a little slight, and we begin to build a fortress.

‘No one is ever going to hurt me again like that.’ 

And if that tender small inner child ever gets a poke or a prod, then out comes the angry army.

I get angry. I get hurt. But I don’t want my anger to overflow and burn up the relationships I hold dear.

Yes, those close to me may trigger an unbearable feeling, and I want to lash out in response, but I, as an adult, have to take responsibility for myself. My response is my responsibility.

What is it under the fury and fire of your anger that is causing you to explode?

Perhaps if we look at gender differences, we might find a clue.

An angry man

The chief fear of a man is that he is weightless, that there is nothing substantial or powerful about him.

That he is not going to make much difference in his world, in his relationships, particularly with women, with the children he has, and with his friends.

The lies he says to himself are ‘I’m useless,’ ‘I never do anything right,’ ‘Everything I do, I fail in.’

Every angry man I have talked with has a common theme—a loss of respect.

They want it from those they care about, but when it is not given, they demand, cajole, and try harder to win approval.

They want someone to see and acknowledge their purpose even though they may dismiss it themselves.

The question to ask is, ‘How has their purpose been dismissed’?

Read more about men here.

An angry woman

The chief fear of a woman is undesirability. At the core of a women’s being, they ask – ‘Is there anything desirable about me.

If a man really saw me, would he want me? Would he find me desirable, not just as a sex partner, but would he find me desirable at all.’

The lies they say to themselves are ‘I am ugly, both externally and internally,’ ‘No one loves me,’ ‘I have no beauty.’

Every angry woman I have talked with has a common theme—a loss of love.

They want to have it from those they care about, but when it is not given, they demand, cajole, and try harder to win love.

They want someone to see and acknowledge their inner beauty even though they may dismiss it themselves.

The question to ask is, ‘How has their beauty been tarnished’?

Read more here Men and Women are different.

Embracing the heart

What is it about the heart, that seat of the emotions, which is crucial to our wellbeing?

We sing about it, draw ‘heart-shaped’ images, give flowers, and so desire for it to be touched in delicate meaningful ways.

I wonder what your heart is like? What shaped its tenderness or toughness? What is it like for your heart to be known, explored, discovered, and touched?

Perhaps the fire of anger could be the signal that something of that little child within wants attention. As you explore yourself, an awareness of injustice is growing and needs to be acknowledged and heard.

You begin to see that the heart could have been treated with love and respect, but it wasn’t. The injustice of it all is like kindling to a fire waiting for a spark.

What would it be like to have your heart listened to without judgment?

With no parent figure dismissing your feelings or telling you to ‘Shut up.’

Then one comes, and a gift of empathy is offered. Wisdom is shared about how we live in an unjust and unfair world, but we have a God of justice, mercy, and grace.

Oh, for a friend that will listen and sit with the heart of a hurting man or woman, girl or boy.

The mystery of heart change

It’s quite a mystery to me about how the heart changes. Mystical in the sense that it seems that there is a disorderly order to this dance. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, and things begin to move.

It’s poetry, not formulas and facts.

Larry Crabb writes this.

In Successful Psychotherapy: A Caring, Loving Relationship, psychologists C.H. Patterson and Hidore admit that psychotherapy is in chaos. Their solution is worth a second look.

Profession helping efforts, they suggest, should abandon identifying specific diagnosable disorders and coming up with specific technical treatment plans.

They should instead focus on one simple yet profound idea – that the essence of all successful psychotherapy is love.

Larry Crabb Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be

When we are angry, we need love. A kind of love that has learned to listen for the pain under the fury.

Becoming whole through anger

I don’t like anger, I especially don’t like people being angry with me, but every emotion has an invite.

What pushes your buttons and why?

There is something at the core of your being that is wildly good and beautiful.

It has a purpose and a power to change our world. Yet, most of us are hardly aware of it. It is like a small seed, a mustard seed, that is waiting to germinate and grow.

We get angry when it is threatened, mistreated, overlooked, despised.

When love comes to town, it waters that seed and stimulates the growth. I’ve seen it happen in many people. A little encouragement, an affirmation, some praise, and that beautiful heart starts to sing a new song.

It’s that tender shoot that a few brutal words can so easily cut down.

Growing out of the bruises

1. You become aware of your unique self. As you look at your heart, what do you hold valuable and precious? What is it about you that is delightfully different from others?

A clue might be found in where you get triggered. What is significantly and uniquely special about you?

There is ‘no one youer than you,’ as Dr. Seuss would say.

2. You draw a line around you. It’s a line of love and respect. Some people call this a boundary, but in a deeper way, it’s a line where you define who you are and who you are not.

This is me. I have these values and beliefs.

3. You protect.

Some people don’t show any love or respect for your ‘Youer than you’ self. They can be like a bull in a china shop. Wrecking and destroying with every mindless swish of a tail. Not noticing your beauty and purpose. Not caring.

So you protect.

You don’t let any old person into that precious place of dreams and hopes.

You assess their safety. Are they safe to have in your land of beauty and passion?

Intimacy (In-to-me-see) is a gift, not a right.

The power to protect is your hands. You only let those in that have demonstrated a safe pair of hands.

Your anger is the symptom of a violation of the line. So then you wonder ‘where has your heart been violated’?

4. You nurture and heal

That angry place, that sore bruise or wound, deserves special loving attention.

You are kind to yourself. As a wise and loving parent, you speak words of compassion and love to that small child that is hurt.

As someone who knows you better than anyone else, you speak what needs to be said.

5. You learn from the bruises

How have the bumper car experiences of life shaped your direction?

Perhaps it’s time to take the steering wheel yourself and drive your own life.

One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to gently explore the ‘Youer than You’ nature of each other.

When you or your friend gets angry, it’s an invite to help define what is inside the lines of love and respect.

Summary

Your anger can indicate what you hold most dear. Why you get so angry can give a clear direction about who you truly are. It’s a matter of the heart.

Quotes to consider
  • Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. Dr. Seuss
  • I have learned to use my anger for good. . . . Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust. Gandhi
  • Believe it or not, no-one can actually make you angry. You choose your own reaction so quickly it’s hard to believe you did it by yourself. D. Riddell
Questions to consider
  1. If you were to draw a picture of yourself, what words and sentences would you write inside yourself?
  2. When you last got angry, what in your heart got triggered?
  3. What would it be like to be known, explored, discovered, and touched?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Mehrnegar Dolatmand on Unsplash

Feb 07, 2021
Can anything good come from this?
13:51

Can anything good come out of that time, place, or person? Only if we take a risk and explore. We are invited to ‘come and see.’ 

I was raised on a farm near a small town called Wellsford. In fact, my ancestors settled there in the 1860s, migrating from England. Through this town and the middle of our farm, a very busy road ran, taking traffic to one of the poorer areas of New Zealand, Northland.

It was also the route to some of the most beautiful beaches and summer holiday spots we have.

My little town was a place you mostly went through or stopped off for refreshments (amusingly, that’s how it’s still referred to on tourism websites).

It was also a place where many decided to leave. If you wanted to advance and get a better education or work, then you had to leave.

It’s like many towns. Functional, average, and a place to say you’ve been through but didn’t stay.

Some places have a reputation. Some people have a reputation, and unless you truly get to know them, the reputation stays undisputed.

You’ve heard all the news stories, the biased opinions, and you wonder if anything good can come from this town, this person, this experience.

Maybe you’re the one with the ‘reputation,’ and others have made a judgment about you that nothing good can come from you.

Perhaps you have made that judgment yourself. Maybe it’s something that has happened to you, and you believe that nothing good will come out of it.

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Think of one of the smallest towns you know. One that is way off the main road.

People may know about it but have never been there. And in never knowing more than the name, it remains unknown.

The little hamlet of Nazareth doesn’t even make a mention in the Old Testament. Nothing until we find Joseph and Mary returning to their home in Nazareth.

That is the town where Jesus was raised. Home town to a few families eking out a living including carpenter Joesph, wife Mary, and ‘chip off the old block’ Jesus.

Talk about keeping a low profile. God was living in Hicksville, but maybe that’s the way God likes it.

When Jesus comes on the scene, makes his debut into the world, more than a few were surprised to hear of his background.

Does this Jesus have credibility?

Nathanael was one of them.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45, 46

Place yourself in the sandals of those in the conversation.

Phillip – passionate and excited Nathanael – dubious and dismissive.

Both in the playground of the discount.

The Discount.

You see them all the time.

The enthusiastic salesperson (Phillip or Phylis) is shouting and celebrating this wonderful offer. You wonder if this could be true.

The invite is to come, see and buy. Exchange something of value – your time and money – for the opportunity to be part of something.

But you wonder, is this credible? Is it really that good? Wasnt it made in Nazareth?

You dis-count it. You take some of the value off it.

It can’t be that good. But it’s only until you ‘come and see’ and experience it yourself that you make the connection.

We so often discount what needs to be ‘marked-up.’

There is a beautiful gem, a treasure, but it’s been devalued by those who don’t have eyes to see.

So you’re from Nazareth.

All of us have a Nazareth. It is a place, a time, a narrative that we can so easily dismiss and consider nothing good coming out of it.

It could be the town we were raised in. Maybe the parents or lack of.

In your life, that story is where you say to yourself and others, ‘Nothing good came from that.’

Some of the worst Nazareth stories are those where one discounts one’s self. Self-loathing, a diminishing of one’s own abilities, qualities, story.

Come and see

Nathanael discounted Phillip’s exuberance and testimony. There was only one way to deal with the cynic and that was the invitation to come and see.

Often I find myself wanting to ‘come and see’ the one that is discounted. The one that others dismiss. The story that seemingly has no value. Perhaps there I can find a hidden treasure or a beautiful pearl.

When I dig a little deeper into this person’s finer nuances, I see someone who has a beauty and a purpose that can only come from a place like Nazareth.

A backwater and a desert where water and wind have crafted shape into their soul. They will dismiss it, but anyone with eyes to see will notice it immediately.

Something divinely good here that is worthy of exploration and embracing.

Something beautiful

Many years ago, I used to sing this song.

Something beautiful, something good All my confusion He understood All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife. But he made something beautiful of my life.

Can anything good come out of your confusion, your strife, and your brokenness?

I believe so.

It happens when we link arms with a fellow outsider from a small unknown town called Nazareth.

Can anything good come out of … (name your story)?

Can anything good come out of that time, place, or person? Only if we take a risk and explore. We are invited to ‘come and see.’

Quotes to consider
  • Real self-esteem comes from within; it is the existential, spiritual truth that we have value and worth intrinsically, because we are here and breathing, not because of anything we have or can do, nor how others regard us. Terrence Real
  • Healthy self-esteem is an internal sense of worth that pulls one neither into “better than” grandiosity nor “less than” shame.  Terrence Real, How Can I Get Through to You?: Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women
  • The self we create is a persona—a mixture of the truth of our being and the fictions we spin as we attempt to create a self in the image of an inner fantasy. David Benner 
  • The self that begins the spiritual journey is the self of our own creation, the self we thought ourselves to be. This is the self that dies on the journey. The self that arrives is the self that was loved into existence by Divine Love. David Benner
  • Shame causes us to see our identity as flawed rather than seeing ourselves as having flaws. Dan Allender
Questions to answer
  1. Where have you written yourself off or discounted yourself?
  2. What would it have been like to be in Jesus’ sandals and to feel discounted because he came from Nazareth?
  3. What is the true cost of discounting in value what God wants us to ‘mark up’?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Alberto Bigoni on Unsplash

Jan 27, 2021
When You Have to Handle Criticism
14:29

Criticism can hurt, bruise and extinguish our hearts, but learning how to handle criticism can build new strength and resilience.

I could see the hope drain out of him as I watched both the subtle and not so subtle criticisms land upon him.

I was in a meeting with a guy I was supporting, and we were problem-solving.

Every solution he suggested was shot down. It was one little cat scratch after another. He would say a few words, and the critic would speak five hundred back.

The poor guy, I thought. I wondered what it was like when he was alone with this woman. No wonder he was depressed, anxious, and stuck.

Criticism can strangle a heart till it gives up and doesn’t try anymore. The words of a critic start to be believed as a truth in your own being. Your inner critic starts negating you. You’re on a downward spiral.

And look, some people don’t know how to give encouragement and praise. They think if they do give praise and encouragement, it might go to your head. So in a warped kind of way, they think they are doing you a service.

‘Can’t have you getting a big head,’ they say.

Criticism is a matter of the heart.

When someone is routinely criticized, it slowly becomes a matter of the heart—the seat of the emotions.

Courage is slowly sapped out of the heart, and despair begins to grow.

In the word ‘courage,’ we find the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.” To have courage means to have heart.

Criticism sucks the life out of the heart.

What is your heart like when you have been criticized?

Does it in someway feel bruised and battered, like it has been in a fight with a schoolyard bully.

Maybe it feels exhausted like a blown-out candle. All that is left is a faint glow and some wispy smoke.

The Offer of gentleness

There is a beautiful passage of ancient scripture in the book of Isaiah that prophetically talks about what Jesus is like.

A bruised reed he will not break,     and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; Isaiah 42:3

Imagine you see a swamp full of reeds.

A wild storm, full of energy, has come through, and because they are tall and vulnerable, they have been bruised and battered in the strong winds.

They are now struggling to get themselves back to full glory and purpose.

Christ comes to the stand of reeds, and there is such a gentleness to his approach that as he walks through them, he doesn’t break a single one.

Instead, the very presence of being with them in their bruised state helps them recover. ‘You will recover, I am with you; let’s do this together.’

The second imagery is that of a smoldering wick.

A candle that was once glowing bright with light and purpose has been blown out by the energetic buffeting winds of criticism.

There is nothing left but the wisps of faint small ash floating away.

There might still be a slight small glow, hunting for oxygen to reignite, but nothing comes.

The Christ won’t come and stub it out. Jesus won’t wet his fingers and squash the life out of the struggle. Instead, with a gentleness of breath, he breathes on the embers and causes them to reignite.

With Christ, there is an assurance of both presence and justice.

Christ, who knows all and sees all, can bring truth to the whole of the struggle.

God is not a god who will add to your pain.

So often, many people feel that in their deepest pain that God is also judging them. That, along with the battering from the storms of life that God is also harshly judging them and raining down punishment.

God never adds criticism to our earthly load.

I can be assured that my heart, which has been bruised and blown out, that God won’t add to the pain.

How to Handle Criticism

So how do we handle criticism?

Firstly, in the best sense of the word ‘critique,’ there is value in having something analyzed and assessed. We can learn valuable lessons when someone is willing to give good and helpful feedback.

The problem comes when the energy changes from being helpful to being harsh and abusive. It’s an energy and power dynamic that is happening.

So here are some suggestions on how to handle criticism.

Here is an example that we can use.

The criticism is that your husband raises his voice and criticises the way you ‘always leave the kitchen a mess.’  He raises this and other issues around household tidiness all the time. He does very little to keep things sorted around the house himself but is always quick to target you.

So here are some pointers on how to handle criticism.

 1. Is there something you can learn and grow from in this? Use this as a learning opportunity. Perhaps there is something you could do better. All of us can learn new things.

2. Consider that their criticism may be saying more about them than it does about you.

What does his continuous stream of criticism say about him? Does he know how to give nonabusive feedback? What was modeled to him about praise and encouragement? Is he stressed out from work or other pressures?

This doesn’t mean his abuse is ok or acceptable, but it might explain it. Perhaps he was the victim of harsh criticism, and this is all he knows.

So don’t take it so personally. It might not be about you at all.

3. Notice the feelings being generated in you and take note of the energy coming from them.

What feelings bubble up in you? Does something get triggered? What are the old thought pathways that you always take when situations like this happen?’

I’m so useless. Can’t get anything right …’

4. Breathe Take a few deep gentle breaths and center yourself back in the now. Notice the thoughts and feelings and see them for what they are.

They are simply thoughts and feelings that you can choose how to act out of.

5. See the situation for what it is. Don’t attach more to the problem than what there is.

This is a problem with kitchen tidiness—nothing more, nothing less. Don’t attach your personal value to whether the kitchen is tidy or not!

6. Don’t give like for like. An eye for an eye makes both people blind. If you fire back criticism, you will add fuel to the fire, and the problem won’t get resolved.

7. Go pragmatic See the problem as just that—a problem to be solved. 

Whenever I have been under attack, I like to listen deeply and repeat what I have heard them say.

‘So what I heard you say is that you want me to clean the kitchen better? Did I get that right?’

When you do this, you narrow the problem down to the real problem and away from personalization.

You might like to follow this up with further questions to shift it away from emotional high energy to a logical and constructive place.

‘What does a tidy kitchen look like to you?’ ‘Can we reorganize the kitchen, so it is easier to keep clean?’ ‘Can we encourage other members of the family to put away dirty dishes?

It’s that shifting out of the emotional reaction mode into a quiet, rational, and thoughtful problem-solving mode.

It’s changing the energy and power dynamics.

8. Give yourself praise and encouragement.

If you leave it up to others to give you a sense of validation and worth, then it’s going to be a roller coaster ride. Criticism is going to crush.

Instead, give yourself the praise and encouragement you need. Learn the practice of encouraging yourself.

Handling criticism is a practiced skill. You learn it by doing it over and over again. Each time you do it, you gain a little more confidence.

Criticism can hurt, bruise and extinguish our hearts, but learning how to handle criticism can build new strength and resilience.

Are You A Critical Person

Perhaps you’re the one that is always criticizing others.

Some questions for you to consider

  • Are your expectations realistic?
  • Have you listened well before handing out a criticism?
  • What is the emotional energy that is under the criticism?
  • Where have you learned these criticism behaviors from?
  • What would it be like to be as the receiver of your criticisms?
  • Are you able to give encouragement and praise instead of criticism?
Quotes to consider
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behaviour than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? David Riddell
  • Encouragement breeds encouragement. Be sure to give it to your spouse before looking for some yourself. David Riddell
  • Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu
  •  He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help. Abraham Lincoln
  • To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. Elbert Hubbard
  • Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. Dale Carnegie
  • He who throws dirt always loses ground. Unknown
Questions to answer
  1. What happens in you when you are criticized?
  2. Why is it easier to criticize than it is to give encouragement and praise?
  3. What does it do in your heart to know that God will not join in on criticizing you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

Jan 21, 2021
The One Thing to Remember when the Emotional Pain is too much
12:57

Emotional pain can bump our lives into behaviors that can hurt us further. But we can make a change by learning to listen to the pain, where it’s sourced, and what it wants us to do.

He was in pain. I could see it, feel it, and totally understand it. I couldn’t take his emotional pain away, but I did want him to know one thing.

She was also was in pain. In everything she said and did, there was an expression of emotional pain. I wanted her to know this one thing.

The bumps of emotional pain

We all experience emotional pain. Possibly pain has been one of the most contributing factors in the development of your self. You get hurt; you avoid what hurt you. The sharp chisel blows of life in some way have shaped your very being and doing.

I keep thinking of bumper boats careering into you, pushing you this way and that.

Perhaps when people express the words ‘God, I want to die,’ they are really simply wanting the pain to end.

That pain of loneliness, abuse, shame, guilt, loss, rejection, etc.

Those painful feelings become so overwhelming that they block out any light.

The pain becomes such a normative experience that any belief that there is a life without that pain is beyond belief. When you’re in that place, there is no light. You’re surrounded and alone, in a darkness that is pounding against you.

Storm waves of emotional pain keep crashing against the architecture of your brain.

A Vicar is needed

Jesus experienced pain. There was the crucifixion’s physical pain, which is beyond our understanding, but there was also the emotional pain. Something that we can understand.

There was the pain of betrayal, vulnerable naked exposure, abuses, mocking, abandonment, rejection. Name the emotional pain, and Jesus would have experienced it.

One of the most liberating words I have ever discovered is the word ‘Vicarious.’

It simply means to ‘do something or experience something in place of another.’

Vicar Jesus lived a perfect life on your behalf. He got everything right.

Christ has also experienced every imaginable emotional pain that you are going through. He knows what being fully human is fully like.

You have to ask yourself this question. ‘Would you trust a tour guide who hasn’t actually walked the path’?

Jesus has walked the path and got the emotional wounds to prove it.

Meet Your New Vicar

When I am in emotional pain, I want a vicar. Someone who has been there, done that, and without any F.A.S.S. attitudes (Fixing, Advising, Saving, or ‘Setting one straight).

When you are in emotional pain, you want connection.

Alone, I die. Together, we climb.

A vicar will be someone who will help you tease out the pain. What is the pain, and where is it coming from. What are the bumps and knocks causing you to do?

They will also see where your pain takes you. Out of our being flows our doing. What habits have you created in your life to cope with emotional pain?

Has that pain led to habits and demands to work harder, keep busy, perfectionism?

The pain has an invite.

What does your pain invite or even demand you to do?

Pain can invite you into addictions: the bottle, the drugs, the porn.

Maybe the shopping mall, the binge eating, the self-harm.

Anything that numbs the loneliness, the shame, the loss.

The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God. Bruce Marshall. The World, the Flesh and Father Smith

The invite of the brothel, or the porn website, is ‘Come. For the briefest of moments, we can dull the pain out of your existence’.

The one thing to remember.

You’re not alone.

I want to talk about the pain I carry, but who will listen without F.A.S.S.‘ing me.

We need to know that we’re not alone. When we are alone with our emotional pain, we quickly and easily succumb to the doing of things to dull the pain. We self medicate.

I have a friend who has been there done that. Knows every imaginable pain that humanity has within itself.

So I write to P.A.P.A.  I journal and express that pain. As I express something gets relieved. Like the tension on a stretched out rubber band, it becomes relaxed.

Some people draw and create art. Some write songs and sing. (think the laments of the psalms and lamentations)

As I express, there is a quiet, soothing whisper that comes to console. Of course, you have to learn to listen for the words ‘I am with you,’ but in the darkness, they are always there.

Then perhaps a new millimeter step of hope creeps into our being. A little movement can be a whole lot.

We don’t need to reach for the stars when we have stardust in our hands.

It’s a gradual thing—small millimeter steps.

There will always be some element of emotional pain whilst in this human existence, but it doesn’t have to the dominant force. It can simply part of our shadow. There, but not dominating our vision.

You’re not alone, never have been, never will be.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [carrying emotional pain], and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus Matthew 11:28-30

More Vicars Needed

We need more good listeners who can point in their worn sandaled way to how their emotional pain has been transformed into something sacred and good.

It’s about listening and being ‘with someone.’ So that when the emotional pain demands relief, wisdom is on the offer. A new millimeter path is available to take.

It’s taking those journal scribbles and notes and gently reading between the lines to where the pain is. Then offering a prayer of ‘being with them.’

Emotional pain can bump our lives into behaviors that can hurt us further. But we can make a change by learning to listen to the pain, where it’s sourced, and what it wants us to do.

Quotes to consider
  • The heart and the key to the Christian message is the vicarious nature of the life of Christ. Yes, He died for you, but He also lived as you, and performed on your behalf. David Riddell
  • Emotional pain always results when life’s experiences go beyond the answers we already have. Dig deeper for more wisdom or go on hurting. David Riddell
  • Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey.
  • Suffering often shapes and teaches us and precedes most significant resurrections. Richard Rohr
  • Pain is the rent we pay for being human, it seems, but suffering is usually optional. Richard Rohr
  • Unless a bishop, teacher, or minister has on some level walked through suffering, failure, or humiliation, his or her words will tend to be fine but superficial, OK but harmless, heard by the ears but unable to touch the soul. Richard Rohr
Questions to answer
  1. Can you give examples of emotional pain?
  2. What behaviors or actions do you have that flow out of emotional pain?
  3. What quote above spoke to you the most?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Taras Chernus on Unsplash

 

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Jan 15, 2021
Four steps to Build A New Trust
14:07

Trust can get broken so easily, but we can build a new trust by cognitively reassessing our situations.  It takes time and effort, but it is worth it.

There was a rebuilding that needed to happen. It was a rebuilding of trust in themselves and with others.

Somewhere, some time, every one of us is going to have our trust broken. We live with an expectation that certain things will happen the way we believe they will happen. The rules won’t get broken. That the promises made will be kept.

But trust gets broken in many different areas of our lives.

  • relationships
  • career
  • health
  • Government
  • Church
  • God

I once sat with a man who, in his late forties, discovered he had manic depressive episodes.

Up till then, everything seemed fine. His wife told me that he had had a few strange moments in his life with some weird ideas, but for the most part, he lived within the bounds of what anyone would call normal.

Then all of a sudden, his illness truly took control, and he started acting highly erratically. He was admitted into the psych ward and began the journey into an awareness of his broken self.

With medication, support, and guidance, he returned to his family and started to rebuild his life. But there was a deep loss of trust in himself, his world, and his God.

As he talked with me, there was a need to rebuild trust in himself. The beliefs he had about himself, life, and God were all lying in rubble.

Trust questions knawed at his soul.

  • Do I trust my thinking?
  • Where was God?
  • What do I believe now?
  • Who do I trust?

Shame and guilt pounded on his soul. ‘What a fool’ was spoken out more than once.

When you’re in a hole, it’s easy to drown in the dirt you’re digging in.

Broken trust Bible

The Bible is full of stories where trust has been broken.

  • Josephs relationship with his brothers
  • Davids affair with Bathsheba
  • Peters denial of Jesus Christ

With each of these moments, there was a time where there was a breach of trust.

Joseph trusted his brothers, but they sold him into slavery. Could he trust them again?

David broke marriage vows and commitments to God. Could he be trustworthy again as a man and as a leader?

Peter broke his trust relationship with Jesus by denying him and leaving him alone. Could Jesus trust him again?

All of these examples, plus many more, show the fragility of trust. Trust is finite; life is fragile.

There is a Fragility

As I sat with the man discovering his manic depressive illness, I witnessed his awareness grow about his fragility.

That given the right amount of stress, lack of sleep, and with a body that was vulnerable in its own particular way, then the fragility would crack. He would become unwell and unstable.

He was becoming aware of his weaknesses.

Before the breakdown, he would have given theoretical assent to this weakness, but now he was truly knowing and embracing it on a soul level.

He could have talked about physical weaknesses on a theological level, but now he was searching for God amongst the rubble of his own torn down city.

There is a fragility in life we can’t control and is open to breaches of trust.

Cognitive reassessments

Rebuilding trust requires the ‘brick by brick’ work of cognitively reassessing that which we are trusting in.

A cognitive reassessment means to look at the facts. The brick and mortar of the situation. Is there change? What actually has been done?

Brick by brick, we can build it from the floor If we hold on to each other, we’ll be better than before. Train

Our subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive reassessments of behaviors.

Joseph had to do a cognitive reassessment of his brothers to see whether they could be trusted again. He did this by giving them several tests.

David could not be trusted to be leader and King again without going through his dark night of the soul. The behaviors of repentance and sorrow marked a changed life.

Jesus could once again trust Peter when he saw the brokenness of his heart.  He had to tell Peter three times of his trust in him.

Build a new trust

How do we build a new trust in ourselves and others?

There is a process, and it requires deep listening into the soul.

 1. Listen for the voices of mistrust We all have those voices of mistrust that say, ‘Don’t trust, you’ll get hurt again.’ We need to recognize them and pay attention to them, but we don’t necessarily have to agree with them.

Those whispers may well be the subconscious brain trying to keep us safe.

They are there for a reason. What would the reason be?

2. Look for the facts We can so easily get caught up in the emotions of the past that we judge the present by the past.

Instead, we need to look for the facts of the now.

We look for the changes made. Tangible, observable, and real.

Is there evidence of a change?

3. Know your lines of love and respect Many people use the word ‘Boundaries,’ but I prefer ‘Lines of Love and Respect.’

It’s that line where you have a sense of love and respect for yourself and others.

‘I show love and respect for others by not calling them in the middle of the night wanting to have a chat. I know that if I did, I would be ‘crossing a line.”

‘Others demonstrate love and respect for me by the behaviors of not calling me in the middle of the night. They understand that this would be ‘crossing a line.”

Understanding and accepting your own needs of love and respect is part of rebuilding trust in yourself and others.

When people continue to show disrespect or an unloving approach to the lines of love and respect I have around me, I begin to trust them less.

If someone keeps ringing me in the middle of the night, showing no respect for my needs of sleep and rest, then the line becomes a fence, then a wall with barbed wire, then a wall with machine guns and guard dogs.

Sometimes you have to tell people your ‘lines of love and respect.’

At times, you have to repeatedly tell them and then follow up any breaches with natural consequences.

Trust builds when everyone agrees on the lines of love and respect.

When people keep ‘crossing the line,’ and you have to enforce some consequences, remember you are not rejecting them; instead, you are rejecting their behaviors.

How can you walk as one with someone unless there is a level of trust?

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3

4. Rehearse the truth

What is the truth that you are thinking out of?

We often need to tell ourselves new truths that will rebuild a sense of trust in ourselves and others.

  • ‘That was then; this is now.’
  • ‘I am no longer the same person I was then.’
  • ‘The past does not define who I am. I choose to live in the present.’
  • ‘I am not the mistakes I have made.’
  • ‘I have changed. I have grown.’
  • ‘I am no longer doing those same things I did back then.’
  • ‘I now have these guardrails in place.’
  • ‘I now understand Early Warning Signs
  • ‘I have lines of love and respect in my relationships (boundaries)’
  • ‘I don’t have to walk with someone I am not in agreement with.’

Trust can get broken so easily, but we can build new trust by cognitively reassessing the situations we are in.  It takes time and effort, but it is worth it.

Quotes to consider
  • “I didn’t reject you, I rejected your behaviour. Change your behaviour, before we can walk together again.” D. Riddell
  • Just because you forgive someone does not mean you must trust them – that has to be earned back again. David Riddell
  • How can I re-assess you until you demonstrate your changed mind? Until then I must keep you trapped in your past, for restitution must come before restoration of trust. D. Riddell
  • God is no stranger to the process of repairing damaged relationships. His trust has been broken many times by those he loves. John Townsend and Dr. Cloud Henry
  • You get your confidence and intuition back by trusting yourself, by being militantly on your own side. Anne Lamott
  • Rebuilding shattered trust necessitates reliable actions over time. Stefanie Carnes 
  • Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. This becomes an even greater challenge because “addiction is a disorder that is characterized by relapse.” Stefanie Carnes 
  • We forgive, but we base our trust on the trustworthiness of the other person. Timothy R. Jennings 
Questions to answer
  1. Are you still held back by voices saying not to trust? Why are those thoughts there?
  2. What are your ‘Lines of love and respect’?
  3. What truths do you need to feed your brain with to rebuild trust? Are you ‘militantly on your own side’?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by David Boca on Unsplash

Jan 07, 2021
I See You Need a Witness
10:53

We all have a story to tell but who is giving witness to it. A witness can help us change our plot, the next event in the storyline. 

I could see them.

I was looking at my Google Analytics for Turning the Page. It’s a kind of measuring tool full of statistics of how many people come to the website and what they are looking at.

This was in real-time. As I was looking at the dashboard they were looking at the website.

I didn’t know who they were or anything about them. Nothing other than that they had come to a particular page. The page was I’ve had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die

The route they had taken to get there was most likely one of writing a prayer. The prayer was short. It was ‘God, I want to die .’ A prayer typed into Google.

Turning the Page is ranked on Google on Page One for those terms. 

So here I am, knowing someone is on my website looking for help, in pain, and being anonymous. I am a witness to a struggle by someone somewhere.

I wanted to touch them somehow so they would know they were not alone.

Anonymous means a person unknown.

The person reading the blog post was anonymous, unknown by me, and being un-known in their struggle. 

I could imagine the situation. They were in emotional pain. There was a struggle, and all they wanted was to have the pain end. Perhaps, they hoped, God would take them, and then the pain would end. 

When you’re in a dark hole, the darkness can feel like it’s drowning you. 

You type a few words into Google and hope for help. An algorithm spits out some signposts. 

We don’t want others to know, and so we remain unknown – anonymous -without name.

I witness you

I remember years ago someone writing me letters. Handwritten, they were pages and pages of expression. Much of it was quite eligible and difficult to follow. 

It was something of the story of their life that they wanted me to be a witness to it. Every now and then, I would write back and ask a few questions. 

It was a release for them to get stuff out of their brain and onto some paper. To have someone be a witness. 

They wanted someone to know, to know them, to be known. To not be alone. 

I think something began to open in them.

That their story was real but only part of who they were.

There was more to them than the story they had been telling themselves. In the writing of the story, they were able to let go of some of the pain because the story had now been heard. It had been witnessed.

I see you, and I’m not afraid.

One of the most beautiful qualities of Jesus was that he saw into people’s lives and wasn’t afraid of entering a dark hole. 

Jesus walked with those on the outside. The broken and bruised, the racially and religiously prejudiced. The rejected ones. Those who were considered of no value – the anonymous people.

I believe Jesus would say, ‘I see you, and I’m not afraid.’

The apostle Paul asks a question. 

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Romans 8:35

Here is another empowering question. 

Is your story, pain, past, and failures going to be too big for Jesus to handle?  

When we anonymize ourselves, choosing to remain unknown, we fear rejection.  That we will be shunned, that something will come between ourselves and others. That the witness will walk away. 

To witness the plot of the story.

As we listen and give witness to a story, we see a plot emerge. How various events have shaped the story. There has been a sequence, and each event has affected the next one.

Dan Allender writes this. 

To understand our story, we need to know our tragedies, and as we learn them, we will catch a glimpse of how we currently manage tension. 

Repetitive patterns have become themes in our lives over time, themes that impose structure on us even when a surface evaluation would tell us that these themes are nothing more than personal preference or desire.

We are not wholly our own, nor are we exclusively the result of what has happened to us.

No wonder reading the plot of our lives is so difficult. Yet it is in the plot where we will find meaning. It also is the only part of our story we can rewrite if the trajectory of our life is not as we desire.

I can’t change my tragedies, nor can I really eliminate (fully) the characters in my story, but I can write a new plot.

To do so requires re-engaging the tragedies of my life with new patterns, thereby developing new or additional themes that mark who I am both as a coauthor of my life and an editor of my future.

Doing this marks me as a character in a larger story, a player who furthers the plot development while living in the real world of tension and tragedy.

To know our plot is the first step in changing it. Dan Allender. To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future

So many wonderful insights in this passage. 

When we give witness, we join in on the knowing of the plot. What a privilege. 

Quotes to consider
  • Writing is always a form of translation. We take what is in us and bring it up from our heart through our mind to the page. Dan Allender
  • Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real
  • At some subterranean level of the heart, what we all want is for another human to say, I see you. Rob Bell
  • Just a castaway, an island lost at sea, oh. Another lonely day, with no one here but me, oh. More loneliness than any man could bear. Rescue me before I fall into despair, oh. I’ll send an S.O.S to the world. I hope that someone gets my Message in a bottle, yeah. A year has passed since I wrote my note. I should have known this right from the start. Only hope can keep me together. Love can mend your life. Or love can break your heart. I hope that someone gets my Message in a bottle, yeah. Walked out this morning, I don’t believe what I saw.  Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore. Seems I’m not alone at being alone. Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home. I’m sending out an S.O.S Sting – Message in a bottle
Questions to answer
  1. What are the skills required to be a good witness of someone’s story?
  2. Who has witnessed you?
  3. What quote from this post has connected with you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Andrew Measham on Unsplash

Dec 16, 2020
Money Falling From The Sky and a Hope Deferred
16:14

When hope is deferred, our heart grows sick, but when we see and know the hope fulfilled in the now, we can build resilience to the struggles of the day. 

People traveled long distances hoping to get some of the money ‘falling from the sky.’ 

A few nights ago, I watched a news item about a publicity marketing stunt that made a seemingly genuine promise and failed to deliver.

A company had promised.

‘New Zealand’s first mass cash drop.’

‘We’re dropping $105,891.40 [$74,558.13 USD] in value from the sky’

‘YES. Actual money will be flying …’

Instead, it was fake money and vouchers for discounts at their online store.

There was anger, violence, and a huge disappointment. Hearts full of hope were sickened. 

Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said

‘I cannot fathom how, at any point, someone would think that was a good idea. Clearly, it was not. It has caused harm, it has caused hurt, and they should apologize.’

You can watch the full news item here.

 

It’s the

  • snake oil salesman promise
  • online marketer promising whatever you want will be had with this new …
  • preacher promising prosperity if you give and pray and read your bible every day 
  • sparkly lights of a gambling machine
  • dream of things will be better tomorrow if you…
  • hope deferred

Yeah she’s a promise In the year of election

Oh sister I can’t let you go Like a preacher stealing hearts At a traveling show Desire – U2

You reach for the sky to grasp the money, buy the magic lotion,  give the offering, pray louder, longer.

Then, when the promise is not fulfilled, there are the words ‘you don’t have enough faith,’ ‘you have sin in your life,’ or ‘you just need to try harder.’

So you try again and again. 

The heart, that seat of the emotions, becomes cynical, fatigued, and in a word, ‘sick.’

Hope deferred

There is a verse in the Bible that talks about this.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,  but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

I wonder how much of one’s sadness, depression, angst is the sickness of having hope deferred over and over again. A ‘putting off’ of the sense of being fulfilled to another day.

Emotions get built up only to be disappointed yet again. So a happy face is put on, and off we go again.

Slowly and surely, the heart gets fatigued about life. We give up the dreams of a better tomorrow and become highly cynical about anything presented as a ‘tree of life.’  

Protesters march in frustration of broken promises. Protest songs become the mantra of a sickened heart. 

We defer to another time that feeling of a ‘hope fulfilled.’ 

A Desire Fulfilled

A young woman gets married. (desire fulfilled) She has two sons (desire fulfilled). Her husband dies (grief, loss, but she still has sons to care for her)

The two sons get married (desire fulfilled). 

Both sons die (hope takes a huge knock). All that is left is herself and two daughters-in-law. 

One of the daughter’s in-laws leaves—the other stays. 

This is the story of a woman called Naomi. Hopes built up then dashed. 

A loyal commitment is made by one of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, to stay with Naomi and help her. To live in the now of whatever befalls them both. 

“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.” Ruth 1:16, 17

She and Ruth return to Bethlehem, Naomi’s hometown, to begin again. 

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

“Don’t call me Naomi,[pleasant],” she told them. “Call me Mara,[bitter] because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:20,21

Naomi was bitter, angry, and was holding up a protest sign angry at God. Hope was gone; anger was in residence. There was no tree of life being fulfilled in her. 

Skip a few years ahead in the story, and we find Ruth married and passing over a young baby to Naomi to hold.

This baby will be part of the lineage, family tree, of another baby, Jesus, that will save the world. A desire fulfilled. Out of the providence of what was in her ‘now,’ something good and delightful emerged.

In that moment of protest

I think we all have moments when we think that life is not fair. Possibly that God has not come through with the promises of blessing, abundance, ‘tree of life.’ 

We shake our fist at God. We shift from being pleasant (Naomi) to bitter (Mara), and in focusing on the real pain that we are experiencing turns us away from the Ruth (friendship) of today. 

The meaning of the name Ruth is friendship

Isn’t that beautiful. In that time of heart sickness, there was a friendship. 

Now for many of us, we might experience a great deal of loss and have no “Ruth’ type people around us. Friends might well depart or avoid.

But there is something bigger going on. There is an invite to live in the now of what I do have. 

Please, don’t say ‘Count your blessings’

I want to throw something at people who tell me to

  • count your blessings
  • be thankful for what you do have
  • be more grateful
  • list out all the things you do have going right

When people say this, I feel that I have failed again. I am ungrateful. That it’s my fault.  

I have been ‘FASSed’ – Fixed, Advised, Saved, Set straight instead of being known. 

This is an avoidance strategy used by them not to enter the reality of another’s real pain.

They don’t want to be a Ruth (friend) to your Mara (bitter) pain. They don’t want to ‘go where you will go.’ They would rather stand at a distance and give you their supposedly wise advice and counsel.

I think Naomi would have felt let down, yet again. 

The compassionate friendship of the now

Instead, there is a friend in the living of the now. It’s the heart seeing the smallest of hopes for what can be seen in this day, this moment.

It’s noticing the provision of a blessing in this moment. 

As I write this, it is early in the morning. It has rained overnight, and all the trees and grasses have had a good wash. Birdlife is singing, and the land feels refreshed. 

I watch the light bounce and sparkle out of a drop of rain on a leaf. I sip my coffee, and I savor the tones and aromas. I watch a small bird hop into our kitchen and steal away a small dog biscuit. The small yappy dog is sleeping, blissfully unaware of this crime. 

In one sense, I am ‘counting my blessings,’ but in a deeper, more meaningful way, I am entering into the blessings of this present moment.  Counting implies logic-based reasoning. If I have this number of blessings, then life can’t be that bad. 

This mindful meditative approach into the friendship ‘Ruth’s’ of the moment goes way deeper. It invites an awareness, a shift in focus to the now.

The widows’ mite

When we shift focus away from bigger hopes to the smaller hopes fulfilled in the now, our life is turned upside down. We enter Jesus’ world of widows mites. 

Sitting across from the offering box, he [Jesus] was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions.

One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents.

Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.” Mark 12:41-44

In our world, we wooed to focus on the big hopes fulfilled. The five-year plan. Goals of this and that. Building a kingdom and a glory of our own making. 

Jesus points us to the heart and love of a widow giving a few small copper coins. It’s in the hope of the small. 

I have a dream, a hope, a desire for my future, but it’s in the here and now that I find the tree of life-giving its fruit to me. I watch for the Ruth and the copper coins of today. 

Don’t defer your happiness for another time. See it and enter into that which is right in front of you today.  

Perhaps, one day in the future, you will find yourself holding an awareness that something truly beautiful has happened.

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:14-17

A hope fulfilled, but not in the way she had believed in. 

Quotes to consider
  • True spirituality is not about running away from your desires it’s about going into the heart of them. Rob Bell
  • Desires shape not simply what we get but much more importantly,  who and what we become.  They shape our very being.  David Benner
  • Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell 

  • Boredom, cynicism, and despair are spiritual diseases because they disconnect us from the most primal truth about ourselves – that we are here. Rob Bell

  • A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr
  • What’s the most important minute in life? I think it’s the next one. There is nothing we can do about the past, and we have limited influence over the hours and days to come. But the next minute—minute after minute after minute—is always full of possibility. Rick Hanson

  • The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still, there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Questions to answer
  1. Where have you experienced a deferring of hope?
  2. What is a blessing of the now you can friendship with?
  3. Are you protesting against something? What is the invite Jesus is giving you?
Further reading

 

 

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by 丁亦然 on Unsplash

Dec 09, 2020
How to Cast Your Cares on a Clydesdale God
11:59

We can all carry too many worries, anxieties, and cares, but when we learn how to cast, we can find a new sense of wholeness, peace, and shalom.

‘That is a lot you are carrying,’ I said as they paused and took a breath.

So many worries, thoughts, and distractions going around in their head. It was, as someone described it, a monkey mind. Clattering noisy monkeys vying for your attention in the cage of your brain.

I had given them room to voice the noise, and only a little had slipped out.

For many of us, we have become so used to the noise of worry that we think it’s normal.

When someone asks how we are, we would never consider sharing something of the monkey chatter.  It’s just there, in the background, part of the ambient background noise we live in.

But all that noise can wear us down. A kind of fatigue sets in, and worry has its well-worn path to depression.

If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. Lao Tzu The Wholeness of Shalom

Years ago, I listened to a talk by Tom Sine about Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace.

Shalom is not just an ending of hostilities but more so a coming together to a place of wholeness.

A ‘completeness’ of self where there are no fractures or splinters of distraction.

Shalom refers to a sense of harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, and tranquility.

Many of us live far away from this place of wholeness. Peace is a lovely idea, but it seems like a distant dream for another time.

We get tastes of shalom every now and then, but they are fleeting, and we are back into the pendulum swing of anxiety and depression.

The fractured life of the anxious

It’s interesting to dig into the meaning of the word anxiety in biblical greek.

The word ‘merimna’ is used.

mérimna – a part, separated from the whole; (figuratively) worry (anxiety), dividing and fracturing a person’s being into parts.

We have the picture of one that has a distracted life—so many parts to them.

The image of one of those entertainers with multiple spinning plates on long poles comes to mind. We are jumping from pole to pole to keep everything moving and not have a plate wobble, tilt, and fall to the floor.

We try and control. We run from this anxious thought to the next.

The call to cast

Recently I was watching a young lady ride a horse. She and the horse were one. There was a wholeness.

Before the ride, she had got her saddle and, with a fluidity of motion, had cast it up and onto the waiting horse. She had done this many times.

She knew the weight of the saddle and the need to have a rhythm to her movement. Being quite short, compared to her horse’s height, it took effort and focus for her to cast her load easily.

In one of the passages in the Bible about anxiety and worry, we find Peter, a close friend of Jesus, calling us to cast.

 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

That same word ‘cast’ (epiriptó – greek) is also found in the story of when the followers of Jesus cast their cloaks onto the back of a donkey, so Jesus had a comfortable ride.

They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt, and put Jesus on it. Luke 19:35 The object of one’s care.

What is it like to be cared for? To have someone show genuine unconditional love towards you.

This care might be found in a few simple words such as ‘How are you?’ but genuine care goes deeper into a sense of letting you cast some of the weightiness of your life onto their shoulders for at least a moment.

To be the object of one’s love and care is something nearing wholeness or shalom. It means that you are not alone with your monkey mind.

How remarkable is it that we are the ‘object of one’s care’ when we consider God?

‘For he cares about you’ is not simply a nice warm fuzzy devotional idea. It is an active, passionate fact.

There is a desire in the heart of God for you to come close and to cast the fractured reality of your life upon their back.

Learning the rhythm of the cast

As I watched that young lady cast her saddle up on the horse’s back, I knew that she had done this many times.

Probably as a young rider, she would have had a coach show her how to prepare the horse, where to hold the saddle, where to place her feet, and how to swing. It came naturally to her body now. She could probably do it blindfolded.

There is a rhythm to our ‘casting our cares upon the Lord’.

It’s a spiritual practice of noticing, recording, and casting.

  • Noticing What are the anxious paths you are regularly taking? You may not even see them as places of worry because they are so familiar to you. The little things you fret over that keep you away from a sense of wholeness and shalom. Check out your ‘Red Dot.’ 
  • Recording Write them down in a journal. Getting these worries out of the brain and onto paper is a pragmatic step of ownership and awareness. It’s an isolating of the monkey apart from the noise of the monkeys. This recording can be the first step towards problem-solving.
  • Casting We have noticed, and we have recorded. Now, can we cast them? Casting involves the asking of God to carry the weight for you. To throw the worries, as such, onto the back of a giant Clydesdale horse that can handle anything coming to them. This is not an avoidance strategy of shifting responsibility. It’s more a partnership with the eternal so that the emotional weightiness of the burden can be carried. This frees you up cognitively to have space and quiet. Perhaps as Clydesdale God carries the weight, new possibilities and solutions open up to your imagination.

This week begin to notice the little noises and worries that seem to snipe at your feet. The nervous worries that seem to drive your life. Notice them and write them down. Then prayerfully cast them onto Clydesdale God because they care for you.

Quotes to consider
  • Wholeness can never be experienced unless we find our place within the larger wholes within which we exist. David Benner
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
  • We are unfinished creatures– longing, reaching, stretching towards fulfillment.  We express these desires for completion in prayer. Eugene Peterson 
  • Prayer is openness to God in faith. It is allowing the life of God to flow into and through us. This is the faith that we receive as a gift when we turn in openness and trust to God. David Benner
  • Prayer tills the soil of the soul and unearths the clods of stories that lie beneath the surface. Dan Allender
Questions to answer
  1. What are the little anxieties and worries that steal so much from you?
  2. In terms of being open to creative solutions, what would happen in you if you could ‘cast’ the emotional weightiness of your anxieties on a Clydesdale sized God?
  3. List out five anxieties or cares that you have for today. How heavy do they feel?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Kenny Webster on Unsplash

Dec 02, 2020
Change Always Asks You to Walk on Water
11:29

When there is an invite to change, there is always that question of ‘Can I walk on water?’. But with repeated experiences, we can learn confidence and literally change the way our brain works.

I wanted to say ‘hi’ and introduce myself to her, but the ‘what if’s’ were started to hold me back inside my boat. What if she rejects me, ignores me, dismisses me?

I stepped out of the boat, walked on water, said ‘Hi’ and we have been married now for 34 years.

Walking on water is a brain change moment.

 

We all a little boat of beliefs about how life runs. We have shaped and sculptured our brain to think a certain way, believe certain things, and act in accordance.

But the boat can become cramped. Like an old jacket that once fitted us well, it now feels constricted and tight.

There is something about change that is difficult. There is a leaving behind what was once helpful and useful for that moment and then trying something new.

I am reminded of the story in the Bible of Abraham leaving his family and friends to go to another land. It wasn’t a farewell and see you next Christmas. It was a departure from known into the complete unknown.

Your Boat Their Water

What is your boat? I’m talking about the beliefs you have held and cherished and kept you supposedly safe.

Here are a few

  • If I’m in control, everything will be ok
  • God loves me, but it’s conditional on doing the right thing and following the rules.
  • My opinion has no worth.
  • I am unlovable
  • If it’s going to be then, it’s up to me

One thing I have noticed is that Spirit (Holy) doesn’t believe these things, and because of the nature of love, there is a mission of redemption going on.

It’s like watching a child who early in life decided that walking backward was the best way to get somewhere. But that’s not how it was meant to be.

So a caring parent helps them to learn to walk forwards and then life is so much easier.

Rob Bell writes this.

 

Spirit often exposes the assumptions we’ve been living with that we haven’t been aware of.

 

Spirit is on a mission to draw you to walk forwards.

 

Sometimes we’ve accepted rules and codes and limits without realizing it. And then Spirit blows in and exposes those assumptions, showing us how limited we’ve been, what we haven’t seen. We see what we don’t have to accept, how we can make new rules.

 

Spirit often reveals the ways in which we have ever so subtly submitted to the belief that this is just how it is.

 

Spirit refuses to accept that this is just how it is, because spirit is inherently creative. Rob Bell Everything is spiritual

 

 

But then there is the water. The unknown, the ‘what if’s’, the instability of ‘rocking the boat’, the fear of drowning in whatever is under the surface.

The call to walk on water

The story of Jesus’ friend Peter walking on water is familiar to many of us. It holds so many wonderful images that pull at the imagination.

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them, and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are God’s Son for sure!” Matthew 14:22-33

What was it that enticed Peter to be so bold and reckless to step out of the boat? I think it was a desire to be with Jesus. That ‘withness,’ that close physical contact, that delight in being with the Christ.

There was an allurement that maybe only a few of the disciples truly smelt. 

Fill my senses with your allure

Into the desert we plunge.

One of my favorite biblical passages talks about God alluring us into the desert.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14

Have you ever thought of God as a romantic lover? One that is powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating. A tender, unconditional, overflowing love.

I look out of my boat of tightly held beliefs, fears, ‘what if’s’, and there is the allurement of a God that walks on waves.

Come Jesus says. Focus on me. Focus on the author of truth

I want to walk on water

In little ways, we can train our brain with ‘toes on the water’ experiences.

  • Can I dare to believe that I have value?
  • Can I trust my intuition?
  • Can I let go of some of the control I have exerted over others?

It all starts by training the mind to rest or dwell on truth.

The brain will take its neural shaping from what you have given it to mould itself upon.

The brain takes its shape from what  the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson

I envision my brain, that physical structure between my ears, being like clay. Soft, pliable and plastic. I place it on top of some pattern. Perhaps the shape of a cross, or maybe an open and empty tomb, and then the brain molding itself over and around it.

The brain’s neural networks take on the very shape and nature of what it has been resting and dwelling on. It leaves its mark.

My thinking compass, a daily discipline and exercise, slowly and surely rewires the thinking.

Try it. Perhaps creating your very own thinking compass might be the first toe on the water experience.

As the wonderful title of a John Ortberg book says ‘If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat’.

Then, after many repeated daily readings of your thinking compass you might begin to notice that things have changed. You are seeing things differently. The boat is there but you have left it without even knowing it.

You’re walking on water and you might just begin to dance.

Quotes to consider
  • Like faded paintings on the wall that one never sees, because they’ve always been there, so are the assumptions that govern our lives. D. Riddell
  • Assumptions are what make the world go round, but they can also create hell-on-earth, until they are exposed and carefully examined. D. Riddell
  • The most effective way to dissolve self-doubt over the long term is to pick a phrase that resonates with you and repeat it many times throughout the day. Lauren Sapala
  • The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. John Ortberg  If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat
  • The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson.  Resilient

Questions to answer
  1. Where is Spirit nudging you to step out of the boat?
  2. What is a little phrase that you set on auto-repeat for your brain to dwell on? Could it be ‘I am loved’?
  3. What would it be like to see, feel, taste, and become overwhelmingly intoxicated with the allurement of Christ? Would you seemingly forget about the water and start walking? 
Further reading

 

 

 

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

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Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

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Nov 26, 2020
Three Words to Build a Bridge Instead of a Wall into the Secret Garden.
11:02

We all have a secret garden. A place we don’t want others to go near, but with three little words, we can build a bridge and not a wall.

I had been having a conversation with someone, and then suddenly, I felt the protection of a wall.  The conversation changed, there was a ‘downplaying’ of the issue we talked about, and a new topic was introduced.

I could sense a wall protecting something, a tender topic, something they weren’t confident in exploring with me, yet if we were to grow in a relationship, we needed to be willing to build bridges and not walls.

“Let’s build bridges, not walls.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Three simple words build bridges and not walls.  Tell me more.

A Bridge or a Wall 

I remember a man coming to me once for some advice about his teenage daughter. She had become a bit rebellious, and he wanted to straighten her.

I asked him to tell me more. He explained the situation further, and I got to understand the crisis that had happened.

The invite for him was to either make a bridge or build a wall.

His initial response was to come down hard and strong with his rules and opinions. We talked about what would be the most likely outcome of this approach, and he decided that she would most likely build a wall. A structure that would inhibit a deeper relationship and bonding between his daughter.

The other option was to build a bridge. A means by which he could enter her world, get to know what was going on.

Hopefully, through his being a model of good relationship skills, she might want to enter his world and understand his fears, but that is never a promise.

It would take longer, require patience, and learning to be quiet and to listen.

So we talked about some questions that he could gently ask her.

The ‘Tell me more’ invites.

He could not express his opinion (No F.A.S.S. – no fixing, advising, saving, or setting one straight). He was to probe into the problem gently.

Over time and with many conversations, he and his daughter built a stronger relationship. Each of them had different views on all sorts of topics, but there was growing mutual respect.

Secret Garden

One of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs is Secret Garden.

He tells the story of wanting to enter the deepest parts of a woman’s life. It’s a secret garden, a place she hides and doesn’t let anyone in.

She’ll let you in her heart. If you got a hammer and a vise But into her secret garden, don’t think twice.

She’ll lead you down a path. There’ll be tenderness in the air. She’ll let you come just far enough. So you know she’s really there.

She’ll look at you and smile. And her eyes will say She’s got a secret garden. Where everything you want Where everything you need Will always stay A million miles away. Bruce Springsteen

We all have secret gardens. Walls are built to keep ourselves safe.

We have been hurt, so self protectively, we build protection around ourselves.

But what walls do is that they hide the best of what the garden has to provide to the world.

The most precious rose is kept locked away, and no one can delight in its beauty and purpose.

I’ve snuck into a few people’s secret gardens. Seen the roses, smelt the fragrance, and helped some walls be taken down and rusty gates swing a little wider so others may be blessed by the beauty within.

Walls are needed

To be honest, some people will not treat the tenderness of your heart with the love and respect it needs and deserves. You’ve been there, done that, got the tee-shirt and the pain.

So you’ve built a wall, but you still want to be known. There is a flower garden in your soul that needs tender care and love.

You don’t want a mechanic, an engineer, or an accountant. You want a gardener to tend the soil, prune the vines and smell the roses.

True gardeners are hard to find.

It’s interesting to note that the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection was Mary, who thought he was the cemetery’s gardener. John 20:15 Perhaps he was. Maybe he was the gardener of dead souls.

Tell me more.

I want to know more. I want to understand.

Behind the problems we have are often secret gardens. We present with this issue, but really the deepest problem is hidden away behind walls and doors.

A king is one who searches things out.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

It might come in the form of these little questions and statements.

    • I want to know a little bit more.
    • Can you please explain?
    • I didn’t quite understand
    • Tell me more

A king builds bridges over the walls, peeks through the gates, looks at the fears and assumptions we have made, and explores the beauty within.

Don’t let your secret walled garden be lost to the world. We need the beauty and purpose you have within.

Quotes to consider
  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer
  • Sensitive listeners respond to comments with words that convey an interest in hearing more, sentences that open the door to information.  Words that open doors transmit two messages: 1.‘I am interested in whatever you have to say.’ 2.’I will accept you regardless of what you say.'” Larry Crabb
  • A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions. St. Francis of Assisi
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  •  Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
Questions to answer
  1. What is in your secret garden?
  2. What are some gently curious questions that you could ask someone?
  3. Who has gently explored your secret garden?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Nov 18, 2020
I Arise Today and Bind around my Brain
11:48

We often have the same negative thoughts going around and around in our brains, but we can change them when we arise and bind the brain with truth.

I always marvel at those men and women who lift heavyweights. It takes time, effort, and wisdom. Many of them you will see wrap a binding around their wrists or their waist. Boxers wrap their hands.

Perhaps you have seen other athletes wrap some support around their legs.

All to give some extra support to some weaker and perhaps fragile are of the body. Perhaps it has been previously injured and needs some extra support.

The verb bind means to tie, secure, or fasten as with string or rope. 

I don’t want to wake up in the morning.

One of my most-read posts is the post ‘She prayed to God that she wouldn’t wake up in the morning.’ In fact, since writing it in July 2018, it has been read over 1600 times, and over 83% of those reads have come through a google search.

There are many that pray not to wake up in the morning.

Life at times can feel too heavy, too hard, and you want it all to end.

The thought of having to lift that heavyweight of life, yet again the next morning, creates feelings of despair and hopelessness. In that place of emotional pain, it all feels too much.

Your feelings feed your thoughts, and you find yourself in a downward spiral—a vicious spiral sinking you into the mud of hopelessness.

I wonder about the words, phrases, mottos, and sentences of thoughts that are repeatedly said over and over again. Binding them to the brain.

Words have power. Sentences have meaning. Paragraphs shape our beliefs. Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

Bind them on your heart

In the Jewish faith, the men wear a phylactery called a Tefillin,, a small leather box containing Hebrew texts at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law.

They, in a very literal sense, are binding scripture to themselves.

Then there are these verses that talk about the binding of scripture.

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. Deuteronomy 11:18

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3

My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. Proverbs 6:20-22

This seems to be an active process. Not passive.

I arise, and I bind

Somewhere in the years between 390 and 461 A.D., a man by the name of Patrick writes a prayer. It’s a prayer about focusing your thoughts.

In the oldest translations from ancient Irish, we have the lines ‘I bind myself’ and then with later translations, we have ‘I arise today.’

“I arise today” is generally considered a better translation of the first line than “I bind unto myself today.” according to the hymnology archive. 

I think both versions have merit.

I pray St. Patricks prayer every morning as part of my thinking compass.

I bind unto myself to-day The strong name of the Trinity, By invocation of the same. The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever, ⁠By power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation; His baptism in Jordan river; ⁠His death on cross for my salvation; His bursting from the spiced tomb; ⁠His riding up the heavenly way; His coming at the day of doom; ⁠I bind unto myself to-day.

I bind unto myself the power ⁠Of the great love of Cherubim; The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour; ⁠The service of the Seraphim, Confessors’ faith. Apostles’ word, ⁠The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls, All good deeds done unto the Lord, ⁠And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself to-day ⁠The virtues of the star-lit heaven. The glorious sun’s life-giving ray, ⁠The whiteness of the moon at even, The flashing of the lightning free, ⁠The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks, The stable earth, the deep salt sea ⁠Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself to-day ⁠The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch. His might to stay, ⁠His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, ⁠His hand to guide. His shield to ward; The Word of God to give me speech, ⁠His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin, ⁠The vice that gives temptation force, The natural lusts that war within, ⁠The hostile men that mar my course; Or few or many, far or nigh. ⁠In every place, and in all hours, Against their fierce hostility, ⁠I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles, ⁠Against false words of heresy, Against the knowledge that defiles, ⁠Against the heart’s idolatry, Against the wizard’s evil craft, ⁠Against the death-wound and the burning, The choking wave, the poisoned shaft, ⁠Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me, ⁠Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, ⁠Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, ⁠Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, ⁠Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name, ⁠The strong Name of the Trinity; By invocation of the same, ⁠The Three in One, and One in Three. Of Whom all nature hath creation; ⁠Eternal Father, Spirit, Word: Praise to the Lord of my salvation ⁠Salvation is of Christ the Lord. The Writings of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland/Version of Mrs. Alexander

What do you bind around your brain? 

What are the bindings that you arise with?

What are the support structures that you lace around your brain, giving it protection and shape?

Are there some bindings that are not so helpful? Repetitive self-talk that negates you.

Wouldnt it be better to build and bind truth and hope around your neural structures?

It’s not going to happen without some intent and purpose—a changing of habits.

Building a thinking compass

I use a thinking compass. A little tool that you can check back on at regular times to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.

At its most basic, a thinking compass is a little notebook of written insights, prayers, and quotes that speak truth to you.

You read these every day so that you keep going on the right track.

I keep my compass in my phone. I have a list that I read every morning and often at night before going to sleep. I am training my brain.

Here are some of the little sentences that I bind around my brain.

    • What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positive/good things will always give me hope.
    • Since every destination starts as a thought, I focus on where I want to go.
    • I design my life and build my future thought by thought.
    • The subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive reassessments.
    • No matter how strong, a feeling of hopelessness is an echo and perception from the past and is not how things really are.
    • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. I choose to rest it upon truth.
    • When I allow achievements to determine my mood, I will always be like a puppet on a string.
    • When my brain is full of what I’m not achieving, I will miss what I am achieving.
    • Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

These are little truth nuggets that I need to remind myself of. There is a resistance to learning these new thoughts. The brain likes to keep us safe and in familiar territory, so it will take time for a new truth to replace the old.

Quotes to consider
  • You are the creator of your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that can create the future that you want. It really is in your control. Dr. Shannon Irvine
  • If it’s been learned, it can always be unlearned. e.g., ways of coping, personal habits, survival kits, and nasty addictions. D. Riddell
  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
  • Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
  1. What are some truths that you need to train your brain in?
  2. If you were able to tell your younger self something, what would it be?
  3. Is there a scripture that you need to train your brain in?
Further reading

 

 

Barry Pearman

Photo by Jannis Lucas on Unsplash

Nov 11, 2020
Building a New Confidence from the Ash
11:42

There was no self-confidence. It was gone like vapour from ash. But something reignited when we looked at the pebbles and not the mountain.

It was like I was looking at an empty shell. They were there in the room with me but there was very little confidence within them to do anything at all.

It had gone. Any self-belief they had seemed to have been sucked right out of them.

How did this happen? Well, they had been hammered on.

What does that mean?

Well, it was like someone had come, with a large hammer and pounded against the very fabric of who they were. The hammer was words.

‘You’re wrong, that’s not right, why are you doing that, your stupid’

It was loud, persistent, and kept on coming much like a dripping tap.

Eventually, that constant dripping wore an indentation out of the soft-hearted place of their soul.

The indentation became a hole. The hole became a chasm. The chasm became a vacuumous empty shell.

Being a shell there was a fragility and the possibility of it being completely crushed.

It was soul abuse.

Sitting in the ashes

I have found that there is much healing and hope to be found in simply being with the other. What this does is that it establishes the person as having significance.

They matter. Not for what they do but for who they are.

When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them. Martin Buber

One of the familiar images we have in the Bible is that of broken people sitting in ashes. Job 2:8; Esther 4:1; Jonah 3:5–7.

We find people, much like ourselves, covering themselves with ashes at times of grief, loss, and brokenness.

What’s leftover is mere ash.

As I write this I am looking at a fireplace. The fire Has long been extinguished and all that is left is the remnants of what was. The heat has gone, the bulk of wood has been consumed, and now only fragments of what was being left behind.

I sit with the ashes of what was and wait to see what comes forth.

Strawberries from ashes 

Last night I had my very first spring strawberries for dessert. I went out into the garden to the strawberry bed, lifted up the bird net, and plucked six ripe large berries.

A few months earlier I had taken ashes from the fire and spread them around the strawberries.

You see there is something quite useful in wood ash. It’s called Potassium (K). In fact, wood ash contains 10% potassium which is very high for any natural substance that is used as a fertilizer.

Ash is also full of trace elements.

Potassium is vitally important for reproduction – flowering, setting seeds, fruiting.

Ash contains the potency of new life.

Please stop talking at me

I’ve sat in the ashes where there is burnout, depression, anxiety, confusion, loss. Confidence gone like a vapoury smoke.

People suggest things to do. They make recommendations, set out plans and prescribe what needs to happen. At times you just want to put them out of the room – your mental health room.

But no one dares to sit in the ashes with them. No one is sharing breathe over the embers hoping something will reignite.

No one is holding them in an embrace of love.

Reigniting the soul

I like to look and listen for the smallest of the small and in the pile of ashes, there is a problem.

How do we reignite the soul?

There is a felt emotion of being crushed under a mountain.

I so want to see the breath come back into the dry bones of this fellow traveler.

This person who can’t get out of bed, brush their teeth, or cook a simple meal.

How do I empower the soul to move?

I look at the pebbles under the mountain.

The pebble

We all have problems. They can feel like mountains.

It’s important to understand that it is a feeling. For one person that mountain will seem inconsequential, a mere speck, but for the one in ashes, it may feel like a  towering dark citadel of doom.

They look at it and they are crushed. Any confidence vanishes.

Feelings only report what is familiar.

But under every mountain is a pebble that can be shifted. It could even be the size of a mustard seed.

We find that pebble and empower the moving.

Building a new confidence

I simply love seeing someone list out their problems in a very pragmatic way without any emotional attachment.

First, we see the mountains. The obvious problems. Powerful, intimidating, and confidence-sapping.

Then we break those mountains down a bit and discover other problems. Not quite so daunting but they are still there.

Under those medium-sized ‘problem’ rocks will be smaller and smaller rocks until we find a pebble.

To this pebble, we begin problem-solving and looking for a highly achievable solution. We create a S.T.A.N. plan and move forward.

It’s here that a new confidence can grow from. Empowering those little steps.

It could be the little steps needed to brush your teeth once a day. To get out of bed. To make a simple meal.

Building a new confidence is looking for little achievements. Praising, celebrating, and affirming their worth.

In the brain, new pathways are forming. There is healing and repair.

Out of the ash a seed germinates, puts down roots, and begins to flourish through the ash of the past.

There is still a fragility to the new emerging confidence. So we need others to continue to praise and affirm any new steps made.

Remember that mountains are shifted one stone at a time. Focus on the pebble in front of you, not the mountain.

Quotes to consider
  • I arise today Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through a belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness Of the Creator of creation. Prayer of St. Patrick
  • When I believe my feelings, and those feelings misrepresent reality, I am headed for a self-referential pit that will get deeper and darker as I dig myself into my home-made delusion. David Riddell
  • Your feelings are not a reliable guide to what you should and shouldn’t do. They merely reflect sub-conscious beliefs, which may need to be examined. David Riddell
  • Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chödrön
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
  1. Have you ever had a time when all confidence seemed to have disappeared? What reignited it?
  2. Why do we rush to problem solve the big mountain problems rather than the pebbles?
  3. What is a pebble problem in your life that if addressed could ignite a new confidence in yourself?

Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Somia DCosta on Unsplash

Nov 04, 2020
Are you helping too much
11:38

You might be helping them too much and hinder any progress for them and yourself, but we can learn new ways of helping and see the change we want for them and ourselves.

She was helping too much, and the person she was helping didn’t mind one little bit. In fact, he was very adept at throwing guilt trips and manipulations to keep her supporting his lifestyle.

It wasn’t that she was doing anything wrong. Many people thought she was so wonderful how she took care of him and others. She was so generous and kind. What a lovely Christian woman, they said.

But underneath that mission of martyrdom, there was a dying soul. Life was being sucked out of her, and resentment was taking a foothold. For all the help, she was giving out, and nothing was coming back.

She had hoped for something different, but now patterns had been formed. Expectations of her compliancy were normalized. She was a slave to the foolishness of others and not a servant of truth.

 Nabal and Abigail

In the bible, there is a fascinating story of an interplay between a husband and wife.

The husband, Nabal, was a wealthy and successful farmer. He is described as being ‘crude and mean in all his dealings’ and ‘ill-tempered.’ His servants lived in fear of him. When they had bad news for him, they were too afraid of him. Instead, they told his wife, Abigail.

Abigail is described as being ‘sensible and beautiful.’  She was one that the servants felt safe with. Most likely, she probably nudged and prodded Nabal into making good decisions and kept from making bad ones.

So the story goes that Nabal’s flocks and shepherds had been protected and kept safe by David and his men. David wanted some payment for his work, so he sent messengers asking for payment. Nabal, in his arrogance and foolishness, refused David and was unwilling to be generous.

David was furious and was going to come with 400 hundred men and attack Nabal.

Word of this gets to Abigail, and she intervenes with ‘sensible and beautiful’ wisdom. She meets David and his men before he gets to Nabal and calms the whole situation down.

When she returns to Nabal, he is partying like a king. She waits till the next morning, when he is sober, and tells him all of what had occurred.

He has a stroke in the shock of it all, and ten days later, he is dead.

I wonder

As I read this story, I wonder how many times had Abigail, and the servants had tiptoed around an angry, arrogant Nabal. How many similar stories were in the background that had enabled this fool to remain in his foolishness.

We all do it, though, don’t we? We tiptoe around some people, not wanting to rock the boat and cause upset.

But all along, a growing resentment and bitterness can eat away at the soul. Even Abigail considered Nabal a wicked and ill-tempered man, a fool, and not worthy of paying attention to.

We don’t know exactly what kept Abigail and the servants enabling Nabal’s bad behavior. Perhaps it was fear, often it is.

What we do know is that Abigail told it like it was. She told the story, and the story had the natural impact it needed to have.

Natural consequences

A natural consequence is anything that happens naturally.

If you go out in the rain, you are going to get wet. When you don’t eat, you get hungry. If you don’t pay your bills, such as Nabal, then the debt collectors will come.

You reap what you sow, and you don’t reap unless you sow.

When we intervene and protect people from the natural consequences of their actions, nobody learns anything. People often keep doing foolish things, and then we intervene, and they reap a crop different from what would have naturally grown out of their decisions.

Much of our kindness, I believe, is actually keeping people in systems of dependency.

People change when they

One of my favorite quotes about change is this one from John Maxwell.

People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, and receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell

    • Hurt enough, they have to. Often it isn’t until the pain is so unbearable that there is a realization that change is needed. Consider the prodigal son eating pig food. It wasn’t until then that he ‘came to his senses’
    • Learn enough that they want to. It’s all very well knowing you have to change or being told you have to change, but what is the process for changing, and what is the motivation? Often it is only when we learn some new information, have a roadmap and get some instruction that change can take place. 
    • Receive enough they are able to. I like this because it talks to me about the need for encouragement and support—someone cheering on the millimeter movements.

You have to have all three.

Let’s get pragmatic about helping

We can get so easily swamped down in the emotions of our problems. The fears and anxieties become giants towering over our lives. We cower and live in fear of the unknown.

At times we need to get very logical and pragmatic about the situations we face.

Pragmatic – dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.

It’s nuts and bolts. What can and can’t be done.

This is why I love the Problem-solving process. It takes the problem out of the emotional realm and into the practical realm.

When we can become quite pragmatic about the problems, we have then practical solutions can emerge.

Quotes to consider

  • God doesn’t always save us from the consequences of our actions. But He doesn’t celebrate our pain either. He doesn’t ask us to minimize it or pretend it isn’t there. Instead, He offers His love and unending compassion as we walk through whatever we’re facing. Aundi Kolber Try Softer
  • God has solutions for people who admit they have problems. Larry Crabb
  • Our primary purpose is not to use God to solve our problems, but to move through our problems toward finding God. Larry Crabb
  • You cannot save everyone. Some people are going to destroy themselves no matter how much you try to help them. Bryant McGill
  • Are you a rescuer? A person allowed to avoid the consequences of their faulty decisions is also sentenced to constantly repeat their mistakes, for they did not have to learn from them.  D. Riddell
  • Whose problem is it? Don’t own your child’s [or anyone else’s] problem for them. They must experience the consequences of their own faulty choices.  D. Riddell
  • Don’t punish people. Just let the consequences of their choices do your punishing for you. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. What problems do you need to get more pragmatic about?
  2. Why do we take on others’ problems as if they were our own?
  3. What did you think about this quote from John Maxwell? How could it be applied to your life? People change when they hurt enough that they have to, learn enough that they want to, and receive enough that they are able to. John C. Maxwell
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Contact me here

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Oct 29, 2020
Welcoming a Stranger and Finding an Angel
09:15

There are many lonely people. Strangers in a strange land, but we can welcome them and perhaps discover an angel in disguise.

I was visiting a home the other day, and an older lady met me. I had never met her before, and she told me that she was visiting her daughter and son-in-law, who lived there.

We chatted briefly about the garden work I needed to do then she offered me a coffee. I said that would be great after I finished the job.

I duly finished the job, and she brought me a refreshing cup of coffee.

Then we had a chat. Nothing more than light conversation, but then she shared about a recent tragedy in the family.

She opened up her heart and soul, and the words flowed.

It was a sacred moment, and I felt that I was on holy ground. We were in church together.

A stranger had entered my world, and I felt the pull to listen.

I wondered later that if she had put her own needs to the side in her caring for her family. That there had been no one for her to be soulful with, and then I happened to come along with a few gentle questions.

Story two.

Recently I heard of a young man that I know and how the pressure of life and relationships had become just too much.

He was going to take his own life. A stranger saw him and felt concerned. She talked him down and got him help.

He’s doing well now and has some good support.

Strangers and Angels

There is a strange little passage in the bible about strangers and Angels.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

I don’t think I have ever met an angel. Certainly, not one portrayed in art – half-naked, wings, harps, and with that surreal faraway glow.

But I do wonder sometimes about angelic interventions. Could that have been an angel that intervened in that young man’s life? I don’t know.

As I listened to the grieving mother’s heart, was there a third person in the midst of it all. Were their angels in attendance?

Orphans, widows, and strangers

Throughout the Bible, we find the call to be hospitable to those on the outside.

Ron Rolheiser writes why this was important.

 First, because the Jewish people themselves had once been foreigners and immigrants. Their scriptures kept reminding them not to forget that.

Second, they believed that God’s revelation, most often, comes to us through the stranger, in what’s foreign to us. That belief was integral to their faith.

The great prophets developed this much further. They taught that God favors the poor preferentially and that consequently we will be judged, judged religiously, by how we treat the poor.

The prophets coined this mantra (still worth memorizing):

The quality of your faith will be judged by the quality of justice in the land; and the quality of justice in the land will always be judged by how orphans, widows, and strangers fare while you are alive. Ron Rolheiser 

The Crisis of Loneliness

I have made it a rule that whenever I am working on a garden, and I happen to be near the sidewalk, I always welcome the stranger. I always say hello to someone who is walking past.

They may be walking to work, out for a stroll, earbuds in, or have a dog on a leash.

They generally pass a welcome back to me.

One day I did this, and the lady with the dog stopped. We got chatting about the garden I was working on, and she invited me to come to her home and work in her garden.

She lived alone and needed some help. There were good conversations included too.

The world, I believe, is becoming increasingly isolated. COVID 19 hasn’t helped either with social isolation rules and fears of contagion.

Are you living on the street? 

How much do you put yourself in the place where strangers walk?

I know that this would create high levels of anxiety and fear for some of you, but for many of you, I would like you to step outside of your comfort zone and place yourself in the way of the stranger.

I sometimes get emails from my readers. They share something of themselves. Perhaps it’s a matter of prayer or concern that they want to talk about.

I’m working on the street where everyone passes by. Each week I say hi to around 550 email subscribers, and some say hi back.

Some invite me, and we’re no longer strangers. Some are no longer stray dogs looking for a place to rest.

Treating them like an Angel

I wonder what would happen in this lonely world if we treated every stranger like they were an angel—a heavenly messenger sent by God for some divine purpose.

Finding little ways to be hospitable and show kindness.

Perhaps with some openness to the stranger, we will receive a fresh message or a revealing of who and what God is like.  I know that is what happened for one such couple a few years ago.

Let’s build a community where we welcome strangers, orphans, and widows into our hearts.

Quotes to consider
  • In welcoming the stranger, in showing real hospitality to those who seem foreign to us, whom we do not understand, we are given the opportunity hear new promise, to hear a fuller revelation of God. Ron Rolheiser 
  •  The role of the stranger in our lives is vital in the context of Christian faith, for the God of faith is one who continually speaks truth afresh, who continually makes all things new. God persistently challenges conventional truth and regularly upsets the world’s way of looking at things. It is no accident that this God is so often represented by the stranger, for the truth that God speaks in our lives is very strange indeed. Where the world sees impossibility, God sees potential. Where the world sees comfort, God sees idolatry. Where the world sees insecurity, God sees occasions for faith. Where the world sees death, God proclaims life. God uses the stranger to shake us from our conventional points of view, to remove the scales of worldly assumptions from our eyes. God is a stranger to us, and it is at the risk of missing God’s truth that we domesticate God, reduce God to the role of familiar friend.  Parker Palmer – The Company of Strangers
Questions to answer
  1. What opportunities do you have to welcome the stranger?
  2. How is modern life constructed to keep the stranger away?
  3. Who has welcomed you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator with a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Contact me here

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

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Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

Oct 23, 2020
Stray Dog Church
08:45

We meet in my garage on Tuesday night. That’s so if you wanted to go to a normal Church, you could. Some of my friends still go to the big church on the corner, but most of them call 32 Calvary St their home base.

Let me introduce you to some of them.

John – he plays a mean guitar. He said he had learned some licks from his Uncle. He didn’t know many Jesus songs, but we love him belting out the stairway to heaven.

Mary – Her scones are her specialty. We have them each week with some diet coke, and we call it the last supper. Mary sometimes hears voices, and we help her by telling her the truth and reassuring her.

Nick – here is an interesting character. He had once been a high rolling businessman but then lost heaps of money and found himself on the street. He knows a thing or two. Shame and loss seem to fill his life. He’s our kind of treasurer.

Susie – Now this lady can talk. She could talk the spout off a boiling kettle. Actually, she is very lonely and needs others to hear her and sense their love for her. We listen and love as best we can.

J.C. – he is ugly. Ugly as sin. Scars and wounds all over his body. Even in his hands. It’s hard to even look at him, but we love him so much, and he loves us. One night, he told us that he was the Son of God, but we wondered if he was hearing voices or something. He is kind and caring and often has some very wise words to share from time to time.  Strangely he is always here. He goes by the name ‘J.C.,’ and we still haven’t figured out his real name. Mystical kind of man.

Francis – or Fran as she liked to be known lives in a posh house on Baker st. She is retired now and lives on the pension. She had grown tired of the big ‘normal’ church where everyone seems to pretend and be nice. Pews full of folks with masks up and socially distanced hearts.

Jimmy – some of the ladies aren’t too sure around Jimmy. He has a porn addiction. We love him because, well, we all have our flaws. We listen to his failures and the hunger of his heart.

Teri or Terry – she/he was born a female but feels more male. We love Teri, and she loves us, and that’s all that matters. She’s on a journey like all of us. J.C. seems to have a special affection for her.

Bill – that’s me. I’m an ex-pastor for Jesus. I have a house, a garage, and a few vegetable plots in the back yard. The front deck is my favorite place in the universe. I sit there in the sun, read a book, and chat with friends, neighbors, and stray dogs as they pass by. Sometimes they come and rest awhile and sit next to me, and we go deep.

There are others too. It’s a place where anything can happen and usually does. It’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope.

People from the big church come with their programs and personas. They want to change us and to conform us to what they think a church should be.

Some of them actually stay and sit for a while. They lean into the love we share and discover some morsels of love and wisdom. J.C. seems to be always at the heart of all that.

We sit on old couches, beer crates, and those cheap plastic chairs the rich people throw out when they begin to look a bit tarnished.

We have a donations box by the back door, and if you can put in a couple of cents, that’s cool. As I said, Nick takes care of the wealth. Sometimes there is enough to buy a few sausages for a barbeque. We’re actually saving up so we can go to the beach. Some of us have never seen the sea.

I suppose at the heart of Stray Dog is that we want to listen and love. Sure, some of us have plenty to say, but most of us simply want to be known.

I tried big church for along time. Sit here, sing this, listen to that. Give this, vote on that. Conform to a tightening square box.

Didn’t work for me. I simply like to listen to them, share a scone and a coke, and to laugh at their jokes.

Stray Dog.

People ask us why we call ourselves ‘Stray Dog.’ Well, it because we all have at times felt like stray dogs. Wandering from place to place, looking for a home and a meal. We have scavenged a few morsels from here and there, but no one has truly made us feel welcome for who we are.

Want to have a stray dog church?

Go out into the highways and byways and look for the stray dogs and find empty garages with old tattered couches.

J.C. told us once that he likes to visit friends in the ‘city streets, alleys, and country roads. They look like they need a square meal. They are the misfits, homeless and wretched’ Luke 14:15-24

This is the church, but probably not as you know it.

Quotes to consider
  • The wounds you have experienced are valid. Maybe no one has ever said that to you, so I hope you’ll receive this now: What’s happened in your life matters.  Aundi Kolber
  • ‘Whom do we listen to and whom do we trust? Trust is essential to listening. Why do we believe the myth that the poor people don’t know anything and can’t be trusted? Where do you really find more truth about society – at the top or the bottom? Are the best solutions conceived in the corridors of power or in the neighbour hoods? Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis
  • People with handicaps teach me that being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Questions to answer
  1. In your neighbourhood who are those on the city streets, alleys, and country roads. The misfits and outcasts? Do you know their name?
  2. What do we need to let go of to create a stray dog community?
  3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that the person who loves those around them will create community. What would that look like, on a vulnerable level, in your community?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sonya Brady on Unsplash

Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.

Contact me here

Get two free ebooks. One about Depression and one about Spiritual Exercises that will help your Mental Health

Oct 23, 2020
Six People To Put Out Of Your Mental Health Room
16:37

Six people you don’t want help from, and there could be more; therefore, its time to detach from them and have them leave your emotional room.

There are some people that I am wary of getting help from or even suggesting others get help from. They may be well-meaning, have good intentions, and a deep desire to help, but they come up short on wisdom.

There is something about them that just doesn’t feel right and shouts ‘avoid.’

Have you come across people like that?

People to avoid

In my ebook, ‘So you want to help,’ I list five helping type people that I would encourage you to avoid.

Today I add a sixth.

 1. Fundamentalist Fred. Fred comes alongside and doesn’t lighten the load but adds to it. He lays down the rules, the principles, and tells the person to try harder.

It’s all black and white. You’re either in, or you’re out. There is no room for mystery. 

2. Super Spiritual Sally. Sally comes alongside with a big cheery smile on her face but ignores the reality of what the person is facing. She offers a few quick spiritual platitudes, tosses a ‘Praise the Lord’ here and there, and then she’s off to the next person. 

‘Can I pray for you’ is offered before truly listening for the depths. It’s too scary and unknown to go there.

She lives in a spiritual ‘La-la land’ with doses of ‘Woo -Woo.’

3. Rescuing Rachel. Rachel just loves to help. She comes alongside, takes the burden off the other person, and makes it her own. Isn’t she just so caring!

She continues to carry and rescue without wisdom. She eventually becomes overwhelmed and exhausted.

Caring does not mean carrying. The servant becomes a slave.

4. Program Pete. Pete has the answer. He has a course, he has a book, and he has a lecture to give. Pete comes alongside and informs.

He takes people to the course; provides the information and says, ‘just go and do it!’

He walks away in frustration because, in his learned opinion, people are lazy and don’t want to change.

5. Superficial Sarah. Let’s keep things light on the surface. If you’re smiling, Sarah will smile with you; if you’re not, she won’t know what to do.

Sarah is hesitant to talk about anything that might be difficult. She avoids the people who are in obvious pain. She likes happy endings and fairy tale novellas.  

6. Blind Bill Bill has sight problems in that he can’t see beyond the here and now to what could be. There is no compelling vision that excites or allures him to go deep and be patient with the larger story being played out.

His mindset is stuck. Worse still is that he can be quite mocking and cynical of those that can look beyond the present struggle. 

There might be others too that are less than helpful. Perhaps you can see yourself in some of them.

Put them out of the room.

One of the enjoyments of reading the Bible many times is that you start to see little snippets and sentences which make you want to reread the story again and again.

You start to see things that weren’t so obvious in the first reading.

One of those is this Jesus story, where he came across some people he chose not to seek their help or opinions. He was laughed at for his wisdom.

When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet.  He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 

When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was.  He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).

Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. Mark 5:21-24; 35-42

I have this movie in my imagination, where I see Jesus shooing out all these people from the room. A bit like a shepherd moving stray sheep that have wandered into a house.

Or maybe it was like herding cats. Chasing them around the room to get them out.

Some people want to be there for the show, the entertainment. This, of course, was the synagogues leader and his daughter.

But nothing great was going to happen while the room was full of critics and mockers. Nothing of astonishment was going to be seen while a bunch of Blind Bill’s were dominating the stage and holding the microphone.

Jesus put them out of the room, and then the healing began.

Who are you surrounding yourself with

From time to time, you have to think about who you are surrounding yourself with. Who is in the room?

Some questions need to be asked.

    1. Who is in ‘my room’? Friends, family, neighbors, celebrities, writers, podcasters, etc
    2. What influence do they have over me?
    3. Do I give them too much sway over me?
    4. Am I trying to get something from them that they don’t know how to give, e.g., approval, love, recognition?
    5. Are others wanting to keep me in a box that I sense I am moving out of?

Jesus warned his followers about giving out your very best to people who don’t appreciate it. He described it like this.

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.” Matthew 7:6

Those wailers and naysayers in the home of Jairus were trampling and mauling over Jesus’ holy intentions. Nobody needs pigs and dogs, soiling God’s good work.

Putting them out of the room 

I suppose it’s about lines of love and respect (boundaries).

We need to prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to nudge you about those people that are in your room and not helping.

What emotional connection do they have? What sway?

For some people where there is little physical connection, such as celebrities, writers, etc., it’s easy to unsubscribe, disconnect, and turn off.

But what about if it’s your spouse or a family member. Someone who you cant easily turn off.

Jesus offers us some wisdom about taxing people. People who want to tax your life, restrict it, and hold you back.

They sent some Pharisees and followers of Herod to bait him, hoping to catch him saying something incriminating. They came up and said, “Teacher, we know you have integrity, that you are indifferent to public opinion, don’t pander to your students, and teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

He knew it was a trick question, and said, “Why are you playing these games with me? Bring me a coin and let me look at it.” They handed him one.

“This engraving—who does it look like? And whose name is on it?”

“Caesar,” they said.

Jesus said, “Give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his.”

Their mouths hung open, speechless. Mark 12:13-17

We give others what they rightfully deserve – love and respect, but that which is in the room called holy, beautiful, tender, and full of Spirit delight, well, only those who have earned the right get to have a look are allowed in.

It’s about acknowledging your self-worth that you have something both beautiful and impacting inside of you.

Then you quietly, and maybe not so quietly at times, kick out the stray dogs and greedy pigs.

Pigsty

When my kids were little, I used to read a story to them called Pigsty.

It tells the story of a boy called Wendell Flutz.

Wendell Flutz’s room isn’t a mess. It’s a total pigsty. But Wendell’s mother can’t get him to clean it up. Wendell doesn’t think the mess is so awful. In fact, he doesn’t even mind it when one day he discovers a real pig sitting on his bed!

Wendell didn’t mind when the first pig moved into his room. They were friends, but then other pigs turned up and started to dominate his life.

Spoiler alert. It all started to change when Wendell took control, cleaned up his room, and the pigs didn’t find it so appealing. They left.

Perhaps many of us have allowed pigs into the living room when they should be out back in the yard doing piggy things.

A better friend

We can’t live in isolation. Cheerleaders and people who ‘get you’ are crucial for your ongoing journey.

In seeking out the ‘Jesus’ type people, those who deserve to be in your room, it’s going to be slow and tender.

Look for those who will hold you in love and respect no matter what they might discover. They ask gently curious questions rather than being quick to advise.

Prayerfully ask for discernment amongst the myriad of voices that come to you.

It takes time to clean up the pigsty, but you can do it.

Quotes to consider
  • Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. Stefanie Carnes Mending A Shattered Heart
  • If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Hillel the Elder
  • And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live. Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat. Perfection is static, and I am in full progress. Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones. Anaïs Nin
Questions to answer
  1. Who is in ‘your room’ and has an influence that is not helpful?
  2. Why do some people want to keep you in the same box and not want you to change?
  3. What are the qualities of a ‘Jesus’ type person you want to have in your room?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Michael Jasmund on Unsplash

Oct 08, 2020
When You’re Feeling Stuck in a Dark Hole
11:05

Sometimes we can find ourselves stuck in a dark hole and feel like we are going down, but there is hope when we open ourselves to the connection and support from others.

One of the properties I work on as a gardener is a small farm and I get to use a tractor for some of the jobs I do.

I was driving the tractor one day when all of a sudden I couldn’t move forward. I could see my wheels going round but there was little movement.

All had been going well. I was having a great day.

Driving the tractor, shifting dirt, and making the paddock I was in look tidier and neater. That was until my large wheels broke through the crust of soil and I discovered the mud and muck underneath.

I sunk.

I tried to back out but that didn’t help. The tractor was now up to its axle in mud. The heavy back wheels were a rim of mud and any movement I tried made the situation worse.

I got a spade and started to dig tracks out for the tractor, but it stuck like glue.

I was also stuck and felt shame. That sense of embarrassment and self-loathing.

All the old familiar critical self-talk started to flow around me.

    • I’m so stupid
    • I’m a failure
    • I should have …

I read once that the word shame can be an acronym S.H.A.M.E – Should Have Already Mastered Everything.

In my emotional life, I was sinking fast.

I have been at times stuck in the mud of my own life. Dark black holes have seemed to want to swallow me up.

Telling yourself to ‘Pull yourself together’ doesn’t have any effect on the glue of a dark hole.

When you’re stuck

I remember getting that tractor stuck and I also remember what I did next. I phoned a guy I know with a truck to come and help pull me out.

He turned up and we attached a rope between the tractor and the truck. With his truck pulling and my tractor wheels turning we slowly and quietly got free of the hold.

That was easy.

Getting out of a personal dark hole is not as simple but we can learn some lessons from this very exciting and riveting story. (I’m open for movie deals)

Friends, Neighbors, and a Birds Nest

I was raised on a farm and when you live in isolated rural communities you understand the need to have a connection with your neighbors.

You never quite know when you might need the help of a neighbor to pull your tractor out of the mud, fight a fire, or to be rescued from a flood.

Survival relies on being in community.

In good communities, you look out for each other. You notice when someone is acting differently. A change has occurred and you are gently curious.

Years ago a counselor suggested that I might like to become part of a bird’s nest for one of their clients. Puzzled, I asked for more explanation.

He explained that this particular person had several people in their life that offered some sort of gift, skill, or role in their recovery. Each person was like strands of fiber in a bird’s nest.

There was a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, support worker, dietician, friend, family, and many other people. I was invited to be the pastor and our small church – The Living Room could add other layers of support.

We all have a birds nest of relationships that support us. People we can call on when we get stuck. People who might also notice when were heading for the mud pit.

Ropes

My friend with the truck brought a rope with him. There had to be some sort of connection to the power and resources he had and the power and resources I had.

In that bird’s nest of relationships, people will have different gifts and skills they can bring. But there must be a connection for the transfer of power and resources to take place.

In the darkest of holes, there has to be some sort of reaching out for help.

I’m not a huge fan of rescuing.

Doing something for someone that they could do for themselves. It can create both dependency and repetition of behaviors that got you in the dark hole in the first place.

Instead, we need truth and insights to help ourselves change. Much like you build into your life in a thinking compass.

Encouragements

‘You can do this’

‘I am with you’

‘Together we will get through this’

When you’re in a dark hole, stuck in the mud, you need people on the sideline who will cheer you on. They have a compelling vision of seeing you out of there.

They believe in change often because they have been in those very same dark holes themselves.

When we encourage we breathe courage into the heart of another.

The word encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage.  To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. “Encouraging the Heart – A leader’s guide to rewarding and recognizing others” by Kouzes/Posner

Are you stuck in a dark hole?

Has something I have written connected to where you are at the moment?

Perhaps a total stranger might be the one that can reach down into your ditch and offer you a hand to help you out.

In that famous story that Jesus told of a man robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch it wasn’t the professional and trained that first came to his aid. It was someone unexpected. A stranger.

I have noticed that people at times open up to strangers in ways that they wouldn’t with family or friends. There’s no history or social conventions or pretense that gets in the way. They let their guard down and it all pours out.

If you want to talk to a total stranger and let it all come tumbling out without judgment then here is my email address barry@turningthepage.co.nz or you can use the contact form in the sidebar.

You can also find out more about me here.

I may just have a few ropes that we can use to pull yourself out of that dark hole.

Quotes to consider 
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • The main work of life is to come out of our selves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. The danger is that of coming to love the prison. C.S. Lewis
Questions to answer
  1. In the past, when you have been stuck in a dark hole, what has helped you?
  2. What are the qualities of a good friend?
  3. Why do we at times open up to complete strangers in ways that we wouldn’t with friends or family?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Luke Brugger on Unsplash

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Oct 01, 2020
Where is That Overreaction Coming From?
10:29

We can have an overreaction to life’s events, but when we search out what’s behind the reaction, we often find history-based pain. Let’s help the prickly pear.

It was a reaction I wasn’t expecting. I had made a few jokes, and their response wasn’t to have a simple laugh with me but to get highly defensive and even go on the attack.

Have you ever wondered why some people take offense even to something seemingly unoffensive?

Where no harm was meant but there sure was a reaction!

Overreaction

In their overreaction, you decide that you need to be super careful around them.

You pick your words with utmost care so that you don’t get an explosion, that overreaction.

But all of this controlled containment of your natural self leads to a shutting down—you’ tiptoe’ around them, careful not to push their buttons.

And honestly, how does that lead to a more in-depth, more meaningful, and intimate relationship?

Maybe it’s withdrawal. Their response to some situation is a withdrawal into themselves—hiding away in a cave of negative echoes.

You see, we respond to the present out of the formation of our history.

The painful events of our history have bumped and knocked us into drawing up a guidebook of conclusions about life. Some of those conclusions need to be revisited as adults and decided upon if they are truly helpful or not, and if they help us develop meaningful and intimate relationships.

History-based pain

I read this quote the other day from David Riddell.

The more you fear humiliation, the angrier you must get, in your attempts to protect yourself from its history-based pain. David Riddell

Let’s unpack this.

We like to tease each other. It’s normal, and it’s part of play and growing relationships.

But we don’t like to be humiliated. To be shamed and feel small, foolish, or incompetent.

So we protect ourselves from anyone or anything that might trigger those feelings of humiliation. We fear being humiliated.

So we get angry at the injustice of it all. We lash out at the abuser.

But as we do this, a wall is being built—a barrier that stops the flow of intimacy – in-to-me-see.

It’s a history-based pain that keeps getting the touchdown.

Something happened back then that is like a trampoline that even now you still bounce off. It seems so normal and natural for you to respond that way, but it’s not helpful.

Their response is their responsibility.

When someone is overreacting, then it’s important to remember that how they respond is their responsibility.

You cant control them and the way they react to the various stimuli they are going to come across.

We are volitional beings. God has given us the cognitive ability to make choices.

Victor Frankl, a survivor of the extermination camps of holocaust Germany, knew something of our ability to choose how we respond.

Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.  Victor Frankl

Your response to the ‘Prickly Pear.’

Perhaps you know someone who is what I call a ‘Prickly Pear.’

An actual Prickly Pear is a fruit from the Cacti family. It can be eaten and enjoyed but on the outside of the skin are fine prickles or bristles that easily dislodge and can cause skin and eye irritation.

So you handle them with care.

If you want more of a human face to a prickly pear, then meet Gloria.

Source: The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt

If you want to know Gloria and discover her goodness, you need to have loads of patience and learn to ask questions.

Good questions that defuse the walking landmine that they are.

Asking the questions

Questions have a way of opening up lines of inquiry, and if you want to go deep with a Gloria or Glen, then gentle empowering questions need to be asked.

Questions to ask yourself

    1. What do I know about their history that might help explain their reaction?
    2. What gets generated emotionally in me when they react in that way?
    3. Am I taking responsibility for my communication?
    4. Am I needlessly being too flippant with my words?
  1. Questions to ask them 
    1. I’m curious, why did you respond in the way you did?
    2. Could you describe another time when you reacted in that way, and how did that affect your relationships?
    3. When did you first ‘feel’ that feeling of … (eg, being mocked)
    4. What painful experiences have shaped your life in unhelpful ways
History to His Story

As we review the bumps and bruises of our story, we will notice times when we responded in certain ways to life events that have left us with thinking and emotional response habits.

But we are not locked into our past.

We can change, our brains are plastic (malleable), and we have God of infinite creative power that desires to make all things new.

So we now offer up our thinking and emotional response habits to God, asking for questions to unlock the purposes of the heart.

What would Jesus want me to know about this moment in my story and in his-story?

Can Spirit (Holy) help to lubricate the wiring in my brain to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus? Philippians 2:5

I believe they can.

Quotes to consider
  • Check every over-reaction in the present for an echo from the past. Trace it, face it, replace it, or live on in all-out reaction to others. D. Riddell
  • Reacting badly? A trauma in the past causes an over-reaction in the present. Acknowledge and compensate for it in order to carry on. D. Riddell
  • When you next over-react in anxiety, rejection, or anger, try to distinguish between present reality and the echoes of past experiences. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Fight, flight, or freeze. All can be overreactions to stressful triggers to history-based pain. What tends to be your default response mode?
  2. Can you think of times you overreacted? What history-based pain did that bounce off?
  3. What other questions could be asked to gently probe a person’s overreactions?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Sep 24, 2020
Can you Be Kind to Yourself?
09:30

We are all in a daily grind of struggle, but when you listen for the voices of demand, you can learn to be kind to yourself and others. You can find rest.

This person deserves a  medal.

Sometimes I listen to a person sharing something of their lives, and I think they deserve a medal or some award for what they have been through.

We hand out awards for bravery, sports, business leadership, arts, and other achievements but not for those who have faced the grit and grind of life.

I hear, at a heart level, the failures, successes, regrets, moments of passion, and also moments of sheer exhaustion. Yet they still keep going.

It’s a humbling experience at times to go deep into the struggle of another’s life. There is an invite to say ‘well done.’

The downplay 

But they downplay your sense of amazement. Not so much out of modesty but more so out of an unawareness that what they do is quite amazing.

    • ‘Raising three kids on my own – not that bigger deal.’
    • ‘My wife has had severe depression for 25 years of our 30-year marriage – not that bigger deal.’
    • ‘I’ve had psychotic thoughts for ten years now. Its a struggle but not too bad.’
    • ‘I started going to counseling five years ago for PTSD stuff from sexual abuse as a child. It’s tough, but it’s not that bad.’
    • ‘Other people have it worse off than me.’

I want to say to them, ‘You’re amazing.’

An awareness of not being alone

There is often a pull to self-isolate. To hide away with our struggles. Rugged individualism has an allure to it of ‘I can do this on my own.’

Yet at the full stop point, that place where you run out of resources there is a need to reach out and seek help.

‘I can’t do this on my own.’

Only in the movies does the self-made superhero exist.

Most of all, we need others who say that they are with us.

They may not be able to magically solve the problem or heal the hurt, but they can offer to wipe away the tears of exhaustion.

They are there to be there for that moment.

The gift of being kind

Can you be kind to yourself?

Can you, for a moment, look at the grit and grind of your life and rest yourself in a bath of kindness?

Perhaps there is a little voice inside you that is saying you’re not enough. That you don’t measure up. You’re a failure, and you need to try harder.

Maybe you have a list of measurements that you have to achieve to feel you’re doing ok.

It could be spiritual exercises of having a daily quiet time, reading the Bible, praying for a certain amount of minutes, attending these church events, giving a certain amount of money.

Can you be kind to yourself and drop these for a moment.

No one is going to jump on you and kick you off God’s team. If you have critical people like that in your life, then perhaps it’s time to find a healthier group of people to be friends with.

The kindness of rest

For six days, this creative team worked and built. It was truly unique what they created. Mountains and microbes. Stars and snails. A man and a mouse.

What a burst of energy it must have been. Furious love exploding out everywhere.

Then on the seventh day, they had a rest. Phew.

A deep rest of sitting with each other and soaking in the kindness of it all. They were kind to each other, themselves.

We still have that opportunity of entering kindness and rest.

Being kind to ourselves is an invite to rest with them (God) because we accept our clay bound human limitations.

To be kind to ourselves is to know that there is a much larger story going on, that we are part of it, and that God, with their creative artistic flair, will bring all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

Can you rest yourself in that?

Speaking to the critic 

Yet, there is still that little critic inside that whispers and shouts a list of expectations.

    • Do this
    • Do that
    • Try harder
    • You’re not good enough
    • You don’t measure up
    • You should be doing this
    • Why can’t you be like them

There’s no carrot, only a stick that drives the donkey of your life.

Please, be kind and stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself.

Start to notice the inner voice of the critic and see the influence it has over you. Where did that voice come from? Who was that slave driver?

It may be time for you to learn how to work out of your rest.

The wind

Yesterday I had a typically busy day outside, but I stopped for a moment.

I noticed that there was a particular wildness in the wind and so I ceased working for a few minutes and let the genesis energy of the wind flow around my face and through my lungs.

I was kind to myself and rested.

It was a ‘No’ to the ‘shoulds’ and an embracing of the ‘coulds.’

There were options. I could keep on working, working, working, or I could, for the next few moments, become mindfully aware of the presence of God in the wind around me.

I was kind to myself and I rested.

You may be working so hard in life that I can hardly rest with you. Please, be kind to yourself and take a rest.

Quotes to consider
  •  Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Socrates
  • In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
  • Our anguish plays out in our distorted images of our selves, our self-centered compulsions, our need to control, and our illusions about what makes us feel we are accepted or important. In all of this, grace is at the heart of deep change. Roger Heuser
  • When you compare yourself with others, you have no idea what challenges they are facing. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
  1. Are you kind to yourself?
  2. Do you downplay your struggle to yourself?
  3. What would it be like to be fully at rest?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Anthony Duran on Unsplash

 
Sep 17, 2020
When There are More Questions than Answers
10:03

Life can hand us a bunch of questions with few answers. But there is something inviting in a question, and so we explore a road less travelled.

When Bob climbed into the passenger seat next to me, I could see that something was wrong. He wasn’t his normal cheery self. It was like a question had gripped his thinking.

Have you ever had that experience? Something has happened in your life, and with a sense of shock, you are consumed with trying to understand it.

I have many questions.

If you have lived for a few years, you will most likely have a closet full of questions.

Its that place where you store away those questions that haven’t been answered yet.

Or maybe they have been answered, but not to your full satisfaction.

I’m talking questions of the heart.

Perhaps the answer given was glib.

A nice, pretty sterilized bandaid used to avoid exposure to the rawness of the pain.

Few of us genuinely want to hear the rawness of another’s pain. We don’t even want to go near our own.

I have few answers

The older I get, I find that I have many questions and few answers.

Recently I have been listening, via Daily Audio Bible, to Job and Ecclesiastes.

Now here are a couple of books that inspire joy and overflowing positivity!

Job sits in torn clothes and a pit of ashes. His world has been thrown upside down and shaken to its core.

But why? He questions everything, especially God. His so-called friends question him and tell him their less than helpful answers.

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be stuck in a well of hopelessness.

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”     says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless!     Everything is meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 1:2

How about that as a sales pitch for success!

I have a God that questions my questions

One of the delights of the book of Job is how God responds to Job and his friends.

Job asks questions. God responds with questions.

The questions God asked Job to answer were of a nature that no man could answer, put in a box and say ‘There I have the answer’.

I have some questions for you,     and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth?     Tell me, since you know so much! Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!     Who came up with the blueprints and measurements? How was its foundation poured,     and who set the cornerstone, While the morning stars sang in chorus     and all the angels shouted praise? Job 38

Job is cognitively invited to see his questions in the context of something bigger than himself.

There is a larger story going on, and we are invited to be part of it.

You don’t have to have the answers to gain entry.

Actually, those with the questions are more likely to hear the bigger God questions that truly matter, and that shape and form one’s wholeness.

 The fire scorched adult you are becoming.

Every one of us will, at some stage, go through a Job experience. It might not be as dramatic as Jobs with loss of family, wealth, and health, but we will all taste the ashes of loss.

It could be the betrayal in a marriage or the death of a friend. The loss of a job or a crippling car accident. Cancer eating your body and fire burning your house.

There’s a mill, a grindstone, a storm, and a place of fire that we all pass through—a place where everything seems meaningless and hopeless.

It’s a time where you’re invited to reassess all that you have believed in.

    • Is God good?
    • Am I loved?
    • Do I have worth?
    • Is it ok to change some of my beliefs?

Perhaps the place that gave you the answers as a child no longer provides the answers for the fire scorched adult you are becoming.

Trust is built on cognitive assessments.

I once was pastorally coaching a man with a severe addiction problem. His wife had had enough and had told him the marriage was over.

He was in the fire of change, and he didn’t like the taste.

He asked what he should do.  So we talked about her past and how she had suffered abuse and needed a deep sense of security. The facts were that he was untrustworthy and an abuser of her trust.

We had to give her, via his observed behaviors, new factual evidence that he was doing things differently.

So he became religious, in a good sense, of creating new habits. He did it for himself first. The change was for his own sake, and that if it restored his marriage, then that would be a bonus.

He questioned his beliefs and didn’t like the answers. We rebuilt his life, and the marriage was restored.

Spiritual formation and a good question

I want to listen to people with questions. I probably don’t have the answers, but the joy is to see that they are actually questioning things.

To just accept everything and go along in a trance of what others tell you shows little desire for growth or depth. That power, contained in a good storm or fire, has left no maturing mark.

Spiritual formation happens at that crossroads where there is a question.

Do I explore the road less traveled, or do I take the familiar, but old, and less than satisfactory route?

We need to, as Parker Palmer would say ‘hear each other into deeper speech’. 

Bob, can I ask you something?

 

Mental health is ... exploring the questions for the questions that are underneathCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
  • When you speak to me about your deepest questions, you do not want to be fixed or saved: you want to be seen and heard, to have your truth acknowledged and honored. Parker J. Palmer. 
  • Good work is relational, and its outcomes depend on what we are able to evoke from each other. Parker J. Palmer 
  • It is usually most helpful to ask questions that are more about the person than about the problem. Parker J. Palmer 
  • There are questions which illuminate, and there are those that destroy. We should ask the first kind. Isaac Isador Rabi.
Questions to answer
  1. Do you have a closet full of questions? Ones that you have subconsciously stored away but now and then make their unwelcome appearance? What are those questions?
  2. Under one question, there may well be other questions. What is the question under the question that simply needs acknowledgment at being there?
  3.   What shapes us more. Our questions or our answers?
Further reading

By Barry Pearman

Photo by xandtor on Unsplash

Sep 10, 2020
Can you Measure Spiritual Growth and Formation?
13:23

In our spiritual life, we want to know if we are making progress, but much of growth and formation is intangible, so we have to look deeper than a mere measurement.

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but when we dug a little deeper, I could see the wisdom.

I was talking with a counselor, and I asked him how do we know if we are growing spiritually or not? There isn’t any objective measuring tool where we can say we have moved 5 points ahead or back. That would really open us up to feelings of pride or failure.

What he said was along the lines of this.

How well are you relating to those closest to you?

He conjectured that if we were growing spiritually, then this would be seen in how we relate to others.

We could pull this apart because relationships are a two-way street.  Some people are plain dangerous to be open and intimate with. They will take advantage, abuse, and possibly try to squash your faith. We all have a journey to take.

But I could see where he was coming from.

He was looking at how the three members of Trinity loved and served each other. A kind of self-giving self-sacrificial love between each of them where each tries to outdo the other in overflowing love.

‘I’m going to love you more’ ‘No, I’m going to love you more.’

Spiritual growth and formation, I believe, is a movement to that kind of intimacy and love.

If those closest to me, those who see me at my best and my worst, can say that there is a sense of an overflowing faith, hope, and love coming from me, then maybe something of that perichoresis dance has filtered into my movement.

Perichoresis (from Greek: περιχώρησις perikhōrēsis, “rotation”) is a term referring to the relationship of the three persons of the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to one another. Perichoresis 

Tic on a dog

Relationships are tricky.

We want to give the very best to the other, but we also want and need from others certain things such as love and respect.

None of us love with perfection.

We can be like, as Dr. Larry Crabb says, two ticks with no dog.

A marriage bound together by commitments to exploit the other for filling one’s own needs (and I fear that most marriages are built on such a basis) can legitimately be described as a “tic on a dog” relationship. Just as a hungry tic clamps on to a nourishing host in anticipation of a meal, so each partner unites with the other in the expectation of finding what his or her personal nature demands. The rather frustrating dilemma, of course, is that in such a marriage there are two tics and no dog! Larry Crabb, The Marriage Builder

You’re not the dog for them to be a tic to.

For much of my life, I have considered that my spiritual life was measured by what I do.

Examples

    • Personal devotional life – reading the Bible, prayer, scripture memorization, meditation
    • Church attendance and serving
    • Giving to the poor and needy

All good activities to do, but it feels more like a religion of doing than a relationship of being.

Any step away from these, and you’re seen as backsliding and that you need to repent and try harder!

So often, it can feel like you’re the dog and others – individuals and organizations are the tic sucking the life out of you. They have a wonderful plan for your life that seems to subtly also include sucking the life out of you.

As far as it depends on you

I have limits as to how much love I can give to others. This old dog has only so much blood and life from which others can draw life from.

Paul, in a little section of the letter to the Romans, he talks about living with difficult people.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

In these few words, he says that it’s not always going to be possible to live at peace with everyone. That you can only do so much and that you have limits in your capability.

You won’t be able to meet everyone’s needs. You may know this logically, but it’s your heart that needs to hear it.

When I sense the demand of a tic, the desire to meet a need that was never mine to meet, then I gently point them to an overflowing well of nourishment.

Follow me and be formed.

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.  And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20

Here were some tics, people much like ourselves with hungry, needy hearts. They had a desire for long deep draughts of love and respect.

Jesus comes, shows love and respect for them by speaking in the context of fishing. They drop their nets and follow.

They have found the well from which to draw from.

Formation becomes natural as they model themselves off ‘the Christ’.

Spiritual growth and formation now

I would love to be able to hang out with Jesus, much like those early fishermen, tax collectors, and other waywards.

I know it would probably wreck my life and possibly those around me. Throw everything into even further confusion and then have it settle into something new. Jesus has a habit of doing it that way.

How would I measure spiritual growth and development?

I like the idea of relationality has its merits. That is where God does their finest work.

I would also like to know if there is a growing fruitfulness in your life. At a relational level, that there is some evidence of the fruit of the Spirit

Things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity.

A willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.

An involvement in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, an ability to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Galatians 5:22-24

Maybe I would also like to know if there is a growing sense of grace towards yourself and others.

All of this is highly subjective and can’t be measured. Only God knows the heart, and let’s leave it at that.

 

Mental health is ... having a spiritual formation journey that grows and develops. It overflows and touches the lives of others with faith, hope, and love.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Being is more important than doing, the heart is more important than the mind, and caring together is better than caring alone. Henri Nouwen
  • The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose.C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
Questions to answer
  1. How would you measure one’s spiritual formation?
  2. What relational qualities would you want Jesus to mentor you in?
  3. Jesus used the language and context of fishing to Peter and his brothers. They were fishermen. What language and context would Jesus use with you if he walked up to you today?
Further reading

Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health

Your Brain Needs to Rest Beside Still Waters

Mental Health Grows Through Little By Little Dance Steps

Barry Pearman

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Sep 02, 2020
Touching the Isolated and Touch-Deprived
09:58

Social isolation lockdown comes with touch-deprivation and highlights the need we all have of touch, but perhaps we can reach out and hold each other safely.

She walked up and gave me the biggest hug. Her husband shook my hand.

I’m missing touch. Are you?

I know some people who are huggy people and love to have big open arms that embrace others. It feels like you are being swallowed up by them.

Whereas others don’t like the physical touch.

But I wonder what will the world be like once this COVID19 crisis is over.

Questions bubble in the brain.

    1. Will we be more paranoid about physical touch?
    2. Could the habits of social distancing continue as matter of course?
    3. Will the fear of physical touch feed into an even greater fear of being open and vulnerable on a soul level with others?
We need to touch

Something happens when we touch. It’s a physical awareness that we’re not alone.

There is pressure on the nerve endings of your skin. Someone has moved from their existence into yours. You are not alone.

And it’s not just the COVID crisis that’s changing our touch habits. It could be the device your reading this post on.

Tiffany Field is a researcher of touch at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine. She traveled to different airports in Florida to watch people interacting.

She made a shocking discovery: Nobody was touching each other. Everyone was on their phone.

Read an article about her research here. Why Physical Touch Matters for Your Well-Being

Entering the world of the unclean

Everyone passed him by. Nobody stopped to talk, touch, or even have eye contact.

It felt like he wasn’t there, even though he certainly was.

He thought of getting a little bell and ring it in time with the syrup worship songs they sang.

Perhaps he needed to sing ‘Unclean, unclean’ in this place of worship.

It was a kind of social isolation he knew. No one knew how to handle him. He was on the outside.

You see, he could no longer play the cosmetic mask games they were playing. He hurt on the inside, and it flowed outwards. There was no ability to contain his depression and make out like everything was ok.

He needed presence.

That was until a little old lady of 92 came and sat next to him, held his hand, and told him without words that he wasn’t alone. Her old wrinkled and crinkled hands entwined for a good half hour.

He was in love.

A God Hug

Back in 2009, I wrote my final essay for my Bachelor of Applied Theology.

My essay was entitled The Dehumanising Effects of Sexual Abuse.

In my research, I came across the work of theologian Miroslav Volv.

Volv writes

On the cross the circle of self-giving and mutually indwelling divine persons opens up for the enemy; in the agony of the passion the movement stops for a brief moment and a fissure appears so that sinful humanity can join in.

We, the others – we the enemies – are embraced by the divine persons who love us with the same love with which they love each other and therefore make space for us within their own eternal embrace.

An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other.

They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness.

I want them in their openness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Miroslav Volv

To the isolated and touch-deprived

Actually there wasn’t a 92-year-old lady, and that was the day he left the church that had deluded him.

Instead, he went to the others on the street. He found others in the gutter, and they shared war stories.

They all had wounds and bruises. Some of which had turned into scars.

For some, they were still bleeding, and hugs were mingled with the anger and the hurt of a fresh wound.

Then there were others for whom the wound had turned into a scar.

There was a confidence in them of a well-walked traveler. They had walked the walk, and they could silent the talk.

I have this thing about being a preacher who reveals things about herself, and it’s that I always try to preach from my scars and not my wounds. So, talking about depression is not in any way, a wound for me. Nadia Bolz-Weber

Please, be that 92-year-old woman or man who knows how to hold someone else’s hand, soul, life safely. Let them speak their wounds and see the scars take shape. It’s a beautiful thing.

You may just look a lot like Jesus.

 

Mental Health is ... learning to give and receive touch. In an ever-increasing isolated world, we all need to learn how to touch wellCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Remember that touch-hungry children become touch-hungry adolescents. Don’t miss the opportunity to provide the remedy, before they start looking to others. D. Riddell
  • Hug your loved one soon. Love and affection do not truly exist until they are given expression, and many suffer from ‘touch hunger’. D. Riddell
  • I think not touching a child for decades at a time is a form of injury.  I think withholding any expression of love until a young boy is a grown man is a form of emotional violence.  And I believe that the violence men level against themselves and others is bred from just such circumstances. Terrence Real
  • Spiritual friends see a facet of Christ in us and bring it out as no one else can. And they delight to do so. When they see what is unique about us, it causes them great delight; and then, giving away to the powers of daring imagination, they envision what we could become. The vision excites them – with Paul, they see us where we are and feel the pains of labor till Christ is formed in us (Gal. 4:19). Larry Crabb. The Safest Place on Earth, 172
Questions to answer
  1. What do you think might be the long term effects of social isolation?
  2. How has touch played a role in your life?
  3. Have you been injured in some way by lack of touch?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash

Aug 27, 2020
Your Faith has Made you Unwell
11:55

We can become so loaded down with religion that our faith makes us unwell but Jesus can make us well when we reach out for the fringe.

They were loaded down.

You couldn’t see it, but as you listened you could hear and feel it.

It was a load of religious shame, guilt, questions, and general confusion.

    • Did I do something bad and God is punishing me with a mental illness?
    • I’ve prayed and prayed but God hasn’t answered. I don’t have enough faith.
    • The pastor says there is sin in my life.
    • I did what the church elders told me to do and now I’m in an abusive relationship
    • I keep going to church but nobody talks to me. It’s like I’m not meeting some standard

Perhaps you could add to this list.

I’ve heard many statements like those above. They all fill me with a sense of both sadness and anger that we continue to shoot our wounded and poison our little ones.

Your faith has made you well

Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.”

And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9:20-22  Mark 5:25-34

So we, who want the prescription to health and wellness, look to the doctors’ notes and see that it was ‘her faith’ that made her well.

We conclude that we need more faith so we try harder. We read more, give more, pray more. It seems like it’s all about more, more, more.

We ask questions such as

    • What happened to this woman?
    • Can we replicate it into our situation?
    • What is the secret?

I don’t know what exactly happened but something miraculous took place that will confound and frustrate the mechanic and the chessplayer in all of us.

What we can say is that her pistis (faith in greek) – belief, trust, confidence contributed in some way to her healing and being made whole.

The woman’s faith

We know very little about this woman other than what this story tells us. We do know that she was of part a ‘faith’ and that she had a personal faith.

Part of a Faith

We are all part of ‘a faith’.

It could be the Christian faith but it also could be Muslim, Buddist, etc.

A ‘faith’ is a collective of people that believe certain things and group themselves around these beliefs. Breaking it down further it could be a denomination, a church grouping, a small group.

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume this woman was part of the Jewish faith tradition. Her understanding of what God was like had been shaped by years and years of teaching and training.

It was a faith that had rules around ritual cleanliness, bleeding.  She would have known the rules. ‘Don’t touch the Rabbi (Jesus) or you’ll make him unclean’.

But she was also engaging with an emerging and new faith.

The Jesus Way was now the Faith expression that had a pull on her life. She had been watching Jesus. Learning from him, and feeding off his every word and action.

Personal Faith

Then there is your own personal faith. Your own set of beliefs and convictions. What you put your trust and confidence in.

We are shaped and molded, mostly in early childhood years, by parents and other groupings such as the faith traditions you are exposed to.

However, something was changing in this woman’s life I believe. Her personal faith was evolving and changing as she encountered Jesus.

His loving, caring, and compassionate responses to the outsider invited her to a place where she decided that maybe the merest touch of his cloak might change her life.

It did.

The faith that makes you unwell

I once talked with a man who wanted to challenge me with his religious rule-keeping. Everything was black and white for him.

Instead, I suggested we talk about the stories of Jesus.

‘I don’t want to talk about Jesus stories’ was his response.

I believe his faith was making him unwell.

In his strong rule-bound religious life there was little room for love and grace. The problem was that he was passing on this toxicity to others. Vulnerable others.

At the extreme level of spiritual abuse, we have the cults where it’s all about mind control, obey the leader, follow the rules. But sadly I know churches where similar abuses happen.

It’s subtle, but it’s there.

Follow the rules and behaviors of the group or you’re out.

All those messages, spoken and unspoken get sown into the soul.

They can cripple a person’s faith.

Touching the hem that makes you well

It was a leap of faith for this woman to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ cloak. It was faith reaching for the fringe.

When you are questioning your faith tradition and all the beliefs and convictions you have held dear, there comes a moment of decision.

Will I stay within the confines of what is familiar and known or will I reach out and take a risk.

The fringe is always there for you to reach out and touch.

Would the real Jesus stand up

I want to meet Jesus.

Not the Jesus of religious conformity, but the Jesus who went to the edges of life. The Jesus that will rattle the religious rules out of me.

He’s the one who turned water into wine. The God who danced on the water and ate with the outsider.

That’s the Jesus we all need to encounter and be on the fringe with.

As I listen to people I sense the urge to point them to the real Jesus. To tell them Jesus stories and invite them to touch the fringe. It’s risky, dangerous but oh so good.

C.S. Lewis perfectly portrays Jesus as the Lion Aslan to some children.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Mental health is ... having a growing, changing, evolving experience of faith as we touch the hem of Jesus garmentCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • There are others who know about this miracle birth The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums. Bruce Cockburn Cry of a Tiny Babe
  • Faith is the willingness not to be certain and still to say ‘You know what it’s ok, I can live with it, it’s allright, it is what it is’. Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the oppostite of certitude. Where you don’t need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr. Podcast: Trust is a Rock You Can Build Upon
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel 

Questions to consider

  1. How has your faith developed and changed over time?
  2. What is it like to leave behind some of the old ‘faith’ conclusions you have made to embrace new ones?
  3. What does being ‘well’ look like for you?
  4. What would change in you if you touched the fringe or hem of Jesus’ cloak?
Further reading

Aug 20, 2020
Picking Up The Broken Pieces
14:39

It was tasting the dust of devastation. The broken pieces. But those fragments can be brought together, and so we quietly form a new mosaic

Broken pieces. That’s all that was left behind.

It was a moment that captured the world’s attention.

A massive explosion of ammonium nitrate brought a city to be a pile of rubble.

But amidst the dust 79-year-old May Abboud Melki, played Auld Lang Syne on her piano in her broken apartment.

Playing in her pain.

She then went on to play Arabic hymns, which caused those around her to gather around and start worshiping.

“To see her lean into her faith, lean into God was something that was a strong message to her community and our family immediately”May-Lee Melki –  granddaughter.

Most of us will never have to face the type of devastation caused by such an explosion. But it could be an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, bush-fire that brings us to a place of picking up the pieces.

As you read this tap into the emotions of loss.

Something has swept through your life and now it’s like everything has been turned upside down, shaken around, and thrown to the four corners of the universe.

You are left with a few fragments from which to rebuild.

Broken pieces

As part of my devotional life, I find it helpful to meditate on scripture. One of the ways I do this is through the ancient art of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina asks the listener to be quiet and listen to a passage of scripture and allow God to speak to you personally through this.

I use a podcast called Daily Lectio Divina. 

One of the readings this week was about the feeding of the 5000 by Jesus. The miraculous turning of a few loaves of bread and some fish into a banquet for the multitude.

At the very end of the story is the mention of the cleanup crew.

and they took up what was leftover of the broken pieces. Matthew 14:20

I could see all those people fanning out and collecting the scraps. There would be joy, amazement, and songs of thankfulness.

But I wanted to know what they did with all those pieces of fish and bread.

Did they get creative and make some sort of fish cake? They didn’t have freezers to store it for later use so perhaps they gave it away.

I think that’s what they probably did.

As they traveled along, following Jesus, they told the story and shared the bread and fish. They, and others feasted on the leftovers, the broken pieces.

We like nice stories

It’s a nice Jesus story, isn’t it. Everyone is happy. Full stomachs and the needs of the heart met. We like it like that, don’t we.

For Jesus, there were thousands of happy people following him. Ministerial success! He was now the leader of a mega-church!

Yet, a few years later, after walking a very narrow path of crushing discipleship only a few friends remained.

I wonder sometimes how long Jesus would last in our modern PC church world.

Political Correctness and Pastoral Correctness might just see him excommunicated while the good people continue to sing him their happy songs.

Your broken pieces

Life is full of broken pieces. Leftovers after a storm of life.

The marriage fails, a child dies, cancer rages through the body. You’re made redundant after years of faithful service. No longer needed. A pandemic sweeps through your village.

You sit and look at all the shards of debris and grandma moves to the piano.

She’s been there before.

She knows the grit and grind of what life is actually all about. There is a time to lament and mourn and there is a time to pick up the pieces.

What prompted the nudge?

As I pondered over the passage I wondered why Spirit (Holy) gave Matthew the nudge to write this little facet of the story down.

Perhaps God wanted us to know how amazing the miracle was in that there was so much leftover.

Or might it be that God wanted us to know that there was a divine interest in the broken pieces? Those little things that most would discard as being worthless. The scraps of our lives.

Your broken pieces, those things that might seem as leftovers and trash to most, may just have a purpose as you rebuild out of the devastation.

The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle might come together and form a new mosaic.

A picture of new beauty.

Mosaic of beauty

Years ago I had the opportunity to visit the ancient city of Ephesus.

It was a city of ruins, but it was also a city where I knew the apostle Paul had walked and talked.

As we walked down the streets our guide called us over to the sidewalk.

He then took his water bottle out and squirted some water onto the pavement. With the dust washed off a beautiful mosaic appeared.

Ancient colors burst out from under the dirt and washed us with delight.

Broken pieces, of various colors, all arranged into a pattern.

Someone, thousands of years before, had collected some broken pieces and with Spirit-led, creative celebration, made art for us to enjoy.

Your gift is …

As you have read this you may well have been nudged about the broken pieces in your life. I hope so.

What is the invite God is whispering to you?

Can you pick up a few broken pieces and form them into a mosaic that might help you make sense of it all.

Do it slowly with a sense that this artwork can take as long as it needs to take.

There is no rush or demand to perform to anyone, including yourself.

Your broken piece artwork may be the gift another person is needing to savor off in their broken world experience.

The challenge is whether you are willing to look at your broken pieces, own them and their pain, and then invite the Jesus of miracles to come and co-create a new mosaic.

 

Mental Health is ... acknowledging the broken pieces in our lives and then, with Spirit-led creative design, join them together as a gift to yourself and others.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Can my world ever be rebuilt? Do I have any value? Can I be useful again? Is there life after failure? My answer is yes. That is what grace is all about. A marvelous, forgiving, healing grace says that all things can be new. Gordon MacDonald
  • Tell Moses, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and St. Paul that the broken-world experience is an addendum, an add-on, to life. Tell them that pressure, failure, and embarrassment are not part of the course of human development and maturation. They simply won’t agree. They will say that sorrow, pain, and stress are the “graduate school” of godly character and capacity if people are willing to enroll. The problem, they may suggest, is that this school has too many no-shows and dropouts. Gordon MacDonald
  • In pain, failure, and brokenness, God does His finest work in the lives of people. Gordon MacDonald
  • If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.—Henri Nouwen 
  • Brokenness is a condition, one that is always there, inside, beneath the surface, carefully hidden for as long as we can keep a facade in place. We live in brokenness. We just don’t always see it, either in ourselves or in others. Larry Crabb
  • A central task of community is to create a place that is safe enough for the walls to be torn down, safe enough for each of us to own, and reveal our brokenness. Larry Crabb
Questions to answer
  1. Where have you had a broken world experience?
  2. There is a time for everything. How much time do we allow ourselves or give permission to ourselves to own the fact that we have broken pieces?
  3. What would be an example in your life where a few broken pieces have come together to form a mosaic of beauty?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash

Aug 13, 2020
Is COVID-19 An Invitation To Check Our Wisdom?
09:34

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage through our lives, but perhaps simple wisdom could save the world. The most important thing is people.

In January, I could see that it was going to be war. It was going to be a battle for our lives.

This was the attitude I had to have about the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the enemy was unseen to the naked eye.

Perhaps my realization was strengthened by having just read a biography of Sir Winston Churchill (The Character and Greatness of Winston Churchill: Hero in a Time of Crisis by Stephen Mansfield). Still, I knew that the world was about to experience a war that would test everything and everyone.

Some questions came to mind.

  • Would leaders lead with humility and resolve?
  • Would people listen to their leaders?
  • What political structures will be revealed as flawed?
  • Which leaders would prioritize dollars, politics, and the economy before the health of people?
  • Will we love our neighbor as we love ourselves?
  • Who will be wise but quickly forgotten?
  • Who will be unwise and be remembered forever?

You can answer those questions yourself.

The poverty of wisdom in COVID-19

Today I read these lines from musician Bruce Cockburn.

Every day in the paper you can watch the numbers rise No such event can overtake us here, we’re much too wise. Radium Rain – Bruce Cockburn

I thought, ‘Wow, this so describes our times’.

Numbers of deaths on the increase, but still some people think that they’re ‘much too wise’ to be vulnerable.

I watched a protest march on T.V. the other night. Thousands of people angry about losing some of their rights.

They were being forced, by law, to wear masks in public places. It seems that they considered themselves ‘much too wise’.

By the way, ‘Radium Rain‘ was written by Bruce a few days after the Cheynoble explosion back in 1986, and he was pointing out to the west the foolishness of thinking that a Chernobyl event could never happen in their backyard.

There is an arrogance in the heart that demands personal rights without considering the responsibilities of being human in a community with others.

The kindness of a mask 

A self-centered view of life says that the mask is to prevent contracting the virus from other people.

It’s all about me—an addiction to the self.

Incurvatus in se’ – turned/curved inward on oneself.

Whereas a community-centered approach sees things differently

A community-centered view of life says that the mask might prevent others from contracting the virus if I unknowingly have it.

It’s about others. Compassion and thoughtfulness. Care and wisdom.

So we wash our hands, we use hand gel, we keep our distance, and we wear a mask because we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We lead by example.

Being a wise leader

You are a leader.

One of my all-time favorite Bible stories is the short story of a poor but wise man that saved a small city.

I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me:

There was once a small city with only a few people in it.

And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it, and built huge siegeworks against it.

Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.

But nobody remembered that poor man. 

So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

Wherever you live, you are part of a small town. It could be as small as the group of people you live with—your family, husband, wife, flatmates.

Small as a tight community.

That’s where we start to be leaders and exhibit wisdom.

It starts in small places where we have personal control.

You, in your small town, have the power to make the difference. Leadership is influence, so you lead by example.

He Tangata.

We have a Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.

What is the most important thing? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Perhaps COVID-19 is a huge wakeup call to reassess our wisdom.

We think we are gods with our 21st-century modern technology and knowledge, yet we are mere dust.

If you want to beat COVID-19 you need to ask yourself this question ‘What is the most important thing?’ and I hope you say it is people, it is people, it is people.

It is your neighbor, your friend, your loved ones. You wear a mask for them.

 

Mental Health is ... knowing that the most important thing in the world is people.  He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • If you imagine you are better, holier, higher, more important to God than others, it is a very short step to justified arrogance or violence toward those others. Richard Rohr
  • Any spirituality that does not lead from a self- centered existence to an other-centered mode of existence is bankrupt. Brennan Manning
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
Questions to answer
  1. Do you think the world as a whole sees themselves as ‘much too wise’?
  2. What is happens when we have an attitude of pride and arrogance?
  3. Who are the people, think the small town, you can lead by example?
Further reading

Photo by Pille-Riin Priske on Unsplash

Barry Pearman

Aug 09, 2020
There’s a Gum Tree Shadow Hanging Over Me
11:45

We can live warped lives because of a shadow hanging over us, but that shadow can be removed if we face what’s causing the shadow and allow the light to flood in.

Have you ever walked in a shadow?

Of course you have, but you probably didn’t take much notice of it. We do it all the time.

What about filtered light? Light that has been defused and filtered as it has passed through clouds. Again yes.

We don’t notice it because we are used to it. It’s commonplace and the norm.

Taking this metaphor a little further, we all live with a certain amount of shadows affecting our lives. What I am talking about are the shadows from the past.

Shadows

She is a grown adult woman, but she can still hear the voice of her father berating her.

What about the man who never knew the fullness of a mother’s love, now the shadow invites him online.

They and we grow used to the ambiance of the diffused light. It’s all we have ever known. Sure, at times, we get a glimpse of sunlight, of something different, but it’s so different that we don’t know what to do with it.

We scurry back into the shadow. It’s safe. Normal and familiar.

The Beetles sang ‘There’s a shadow hanging over me’ and the rock-solid belief in the power of ‘yesterday’.

Plant in full light

At the moment, I am pruning fruit trees. One of the trees I am pruning is an apple tree, but it’s on a lean. Not from the wind, or from being hit by some object, but because it’s hungry for light.

Right above the tree, hang the branches of a large gumtree.

Barry having dangerous fun!

This larger tree casts its shadow over the apple, and the tree compensates to seek out the light.

I really should cut the gum tree down. It would be quite a job, and to cut it down from the base would cause it to crash on the apple tree and destroy it.

I would need to get a cherry picker and go up into the tree and cut it down section by section.

I’ve done this sort of thing before. It’s kind of dangerous but so rewarding when you get to see the results of more light flooding into the garden.

Turning to see

The cause of the problem shadow will only be seen when we look at what is causing the shadow.

I can look at the apple tree all day long and not solve the problem. It’s only when I turn my gaze and see what might be shadowing it will I come to an understanding.

When we come to experience the full light, when we turn and see that which has its shadow on us, it can be like a gum tree has landed on us. For some of us, that’s what is needed.

A deeply religious man, Saul, was one of those who had a light shattering moment.

All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He said, “Who are you, Master?”

“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing. Acts 9:1-9

Saul thought he had been walking in the light.

That he had been doing what God would have wanted him to do, yet he was in the darkest of shadows.

The shadow of religiosity. Black and white, rules, and regulations, religion, and self-righteousness.

What casts its shadow on you?

This is an important work. Examing the shadows that are still haunting over you today.

We all have them, and it requires a turning and looking up and back. What is casting that shadow?

Is it the shadows of others gone long before? Generational shadows passed down from generation to generation.

Maybe it was a parent, family member that hurt you. They may not even be aware of the infraction.

Children are excellent recorders of their experiences but poor interpreters. David Riddell

Perhaps its a shadow of something you have done, and you feel shame, guilt, grief, and loss.

You’ve been warped by the shadow. You are stretching and seeking the light, but the shadow remains.

Isn’t it time to make things new?

Making all things new

I believe God is on a love mission where they want to make all things new.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

Paul found this newness. A gumtree had to fall on him to make him wake up to God’s presence, but for some of us, that is what’s needed.

Better still to cut the gum tree down branch by branch. To slowly dissect the object casting the shadow and allow the light to flood in.

Where to from here

1. Ask God to reveal what is casting a shadow. Jesus said these words about Spirit (Holy).

The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn’t speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen. John 16:13

2. Own the shadow

It’s a shadow that’s on you, so you need to take responsibility for it. Avoidance won’t shift the shadow.

3. Ask God for help in removing what is causing the shadow

Imagine that huge gumtree and the enormity of the problem. You cant do it by yourself. We need someone larger and greater than ourselves.

Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Dr. Larry Crabb

4. Find others to help you dismantle the tree piece by piece. 

This will most likely be a journey of a lifetime. Removing branches one at a time. Safely and securely allowing the new light to flood in. Find someone to help.

5. Look for the new light and enjoy its warmth. 

As each small limb falls, there is a new light that dances around your life. You can grow straight, produce new fruit, and be enjoyed by others. You are one that has done the work and is now full of fruit.

 

We all have shadows that limit the light reaching us. Surely we can pray and ask God to help remove the object that is a full awareness of their presence.

 

Mental health is ... understanding the shadows we are living under and then beginning the process of removing the branches that hide the lightCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin
  • Those who do not turn to face their pain are prone to impose it. Terrence Real
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive to me than removed pain Phillip Yancey.
Questions to answer
  1. What has been a ‘shadow’ that has seemingly clung on to you?
  2. What would it be like to have some of those shadows removed and have more light enter your life?
  3. Are their experiences in your life that you might have recorded quite well but interpreted poorly? What would Spirit (Holy) want you to know as truth? Are you open to another interpretation?

Barry Pearman

Photo by Holger Link on Unsplash

 
Jul 30, 2020
The Cup. Paying Attention To What Fills and Drains
10:37

We are like a cup in which energy both fills and drains. But we can grow by paying attention to the cup and understanding the fillers and the drainers.

It was always a challenge to get them to care for themselves. They were always giving out to others, and I could see that life was being sucked out of them.

I explained that you can’t give out of an empty cup, but self-sacrifice and martyrdom had been drummed into them from childhood. They remembered that Sunday School song – J.O.Y. Jesus first, Yourself last,  and Others in between sung to the merry little tune of Jingle Bells.

But now all that giving out was leading to their fragile body forming cracks. The body was breaking down. It couldn’t keep on giving out. Illnesses came,  sleeplessness, anxiety, depression. The body was trying to send a message – Stop abusing the cup.

The Cup

Many years ago, I once spent some time with a counselor by the name of Ruth Penny, and she suggested that I do a simple little spiritual exercise. I don’t know if she had developed herself or it was someone else’s, but I use it all the time.

Its simply to imagine yourself as a cup and to notice what is filling your cup and what is emptying it. The input and the output. What is flowing in and what is being taken out.

It’s a simple exercise of attention.

1. Get your journal or a piece of paper and a pen Have some writing paper, a journal, or your diary so you can write down your experiences. Keeping a record of your entries will enable you to see trends in your life, and it may well point out to you things that God wants you to take notice of.

2. Quieten yourself This is an exercise of attention, so you will need to be quiet and give yourself space to breathe and focus. Allow yourself to be still. Prayerfully ask Spirit (Holy) to open the awareness of your cup to you. To see what God sees.

3. Imagine your life as a cup. A cup is something we are all familiar with. Jesus used a Cup as a metaphor for our lives. The cup is a container for something. They have a purpose and practicality to them. This exercise is not about the external aspects of the cup, such as color, age, cracks, or chips, but more about what flows in and out.

4. Write down your Cup fillers and Cup drainers. As you consider how your life is a cup, take note of what has filled your life and what has drained your life. Cup Fillers – what has given you a sense of life? It might be the smallest of things such a smile from a stranger, something you have read, something you have achieved. It is anything positive that has been poured into your life. Don’t dismiss even the smallest of droplets that made their way into your life. They all add up. Cup Drainers – what has drained the life from you? Write down those things where you have sensed a drain on you. It might be a relationship, a conflict, or a work situation. It could be anything, but for whatever reason, this has drained some sense of life from you.

5. Prayerfully look at the Fillers and Drainers. Examine them and ponder over them. · How full or empty is your cup at the moment? · Do you notice any patterns in what has filled you or drained you? · Is there anything you need to do differently? · What do you need to let go of? · What do you need to embrace? · What will repeat itself if you don’t make some changes?

You might like to discuss and problem-solve some of the drainers with others. Set yourself some small and highly achievable goals that focus on both filling your cup and dealing with the drainers.

Note:  Some things can be both drainers and fillers. For example, I love talking with people at a deep level. It both fills my cup but also drains it. This is ok, as long as I  am aware of it and learn ways to fill up.

6. Repeat the exercise I encourage you to repeat this exercise. Make it a regular part of your life. It could be every day or week. As you do this, you will begin to see patterns to what fills and drains your cup.

There may be an invite in those patterns to explore further. Those habits, both good and bad, have a revealing nature to themselves. I wonder what they can tell you about you?

By the way, this exercise is beneficial if you are considering a career change. You begin to notice the patterns that might be like signposts for a future direction to explore.

7. Give yourself a cup of grace If I could everyone a cup of some unique beverage, it would be a cup of grace. We can so easily measure ourselves against others and pick up a nasty case of comparisonitis.

The poison of comparison cripples our contentment. Instead, give yourself a cup of grace.

 

Mental Health is ... taking notice of your cup. What is filling you and what is draining youCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Justice – is getting what is deserved Mercy – is not getting what is deserved Grace – is getting what is not deserved Darrell Johnson
  • To be more aware of the other person, first become more aware of yourself. Without self-awareness, self cannot be laid aside, in order to listen. D. Riddell
  • Love yourself as you love others. If you don’t care for your own needs, you’ll soon be unable to care for those who need you.  D. Riddell
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
Questions to answer
  1. What, on a regular basis, has an energy filling effect on the cup of your life?
  2. What, on a regular basis, has an energy-draining effect on the cup of your life?
  3. Are you able to give yourself a nice full cup of grace?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

 
Jul 23, 2020
Is The Load Too Heavy? Watch With Me
12:59

The load we carry can get too heavy, and we can breakdown. But we can grow through it when we have others who will watch with us.

I needed help. I vividly remember the day I rang emergency services. I had come to a point where I knew I couldn’t carry the load by myself anymore. I had been beaten down emotionally and needed help.

Every one of us is different. We all have different tolerance levels and abilities to handle what life throws at us. For some, they seem to be, for want of a better word, hard and tough. Nothing seems to break them. They have built a toughness around themselves, and nothing seems to get to them.

Then others are more sensitive and soft. They are more open to getting hurt. With enough poundings from the fist of life, they can be pummeled to the ground.

We need both groups of people, and I would say that each can learn something from the other.

Which group do you think you would be in? What would those who know you well say about you? Soft or hard? Tough or tender? Maybe somewhere, in-between?

The load that’s too heavy

Every one of us, at some point in life, will come to a place where the load gets too heavy to bear. It’s what you do at that crucial moment is vital.

For me, it was calling emergency services. I knew that there was nothing I could do within myself to dig my way out. I needed others to help me. I was sick, unwell, and required those who had skills, knowledge, and resources to help me rebuild.

For a brief period of my life, I was receiving support from Mental Health Services. It was good, and it was what I needed. The stress load had become too heavy for my fragile human frame to handle.

In the garden

In one of the most precious stories from Jesus, we find him when his load was too heavy. It was before his crucifixion, his agonizing death where all the pain of the world would be loaded on his shoulders.

That is a heavy load, one only the God of the universe could handle.  Yet, in his fully human, fully divine self, he invited us into his expression of load-bearing.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Matthew 26:36-46

Watching with

At that moment of deepest anxiety and fear, he wanted community. Yes, there was the prayer to his papa, but there was also an invite for closeness with friends. He asked for three of them, Peter, James, and John, to step aside and watch with him.

He wanted connection, someone of human form that was going to be physically there with him.

We value rugged individualism, the self-made man or woman, independence, yet God needed others. God, in the form of Jesus, exposed his vulnerability and need for community.

I don’t want to be alone when I die. When someone close to me died of cancer a few years ago, we as a family took turns sitting by her bedside as the heavy load of cancer ate her life away. We watched with her. She was not alone.

What is your heavy load

We all carry a load, a pile of stress, worries, and pressures. Sometimes it can become overwhelmingly heavy, and we can feel ourselves being crushed under the burden.

We need someone to watch with us. Some loads can’t be shifted easily and may take time to lessen. Some we will carry every day of our lives.

Guilt, shame, loss, traumatic memories are but some that many of us bear.

None of us will carry the sin of the world on our shoulders, as Jesus did, and so, in a relative sense, our burden is light, but it can still feel too heavy to handle.

I am watching with

We need others who will say, often without words but in actions, these words.

‘I know the load, and I am going to watch with you. I’m not going to try and fix you, save you, advise you, or try to straighten you out. I want you to know that you’re not alone’.

I often would like people to tell me their load. Not that I can do anything about it, but I want them to know they are not alone with it. That the life-sucking aspect of the weight is shared, I want to ‘watch’ with them.

When the load is shared, it feels reduced. When someone else knows the heaviness, then you’re not alone to carry something you were never meant to carry alone.

Perhaps through prayer, a way forward can be known. A flickering candle of hope can emerge in the dark of the moment, and we can stumble our way forward together towards it. That’s what I think Jesus wanted on that dark night.

Watching in the garden

Not everyone is safe. Very few people will not try to fix, save, advise, or try to straighten you out.

What I would like to suggest is that you become one who can quietly watch with others. To ‘shiva‘, like Jobs friends, before they went rogue.

We don’t need others to watch over us like controlling authoritative policemen, but we do need others who are deeply aware of their humanity and can sit and watch with us.

It takes self-awareness, patience, and confidentiality.  There is also a need for grit and openness to the divine and their work within all of us. There is a lot of good that can come out of the garden.

 

Mental Health is ... sharing the load with others that know how to watch with usCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr Patience
  • Entering someone’s life is hugely different from merely guiding them. Larry Crabb 
  • There is a solution to “unspeakable loneliness”: it needs to be spoken, to be shared. Ron Rolheiser
  • When spiritual friends share their stories, the others listen without working. They rest. There’s nothing to fix, nothing to improve. A spiritual community feels undisturbed quiet as they listen, certainly burdened . . . but still resting in the knowledge that the life within, the passion for holiness, is indestructible. It needs only to be nourished and released. Larry Crabb, Becoming a True Spiritual Community: A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be
  • No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love. Henri Nouwen
Questions to answer
  1. What experiences have you had of heavy loads breaking you?
  2. When someone listens well, what do they do that makes the difference?
  3. When the load is shared, it makes a difference. Can you think of a moment in your life when you experienced this?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

Jul 17, 2020
Am I My Brothers Keeper? Guilt-Trip Anyone?
12:48

It was the feelings of a guilt trip and the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’ that triggered me. But was it genuinely helping me and them to think this way? Something needed to change.

Some people seem to be able to push the manipulation guilt trip button every time. They tell you how life has been hard. They share their background and a wide range of struggles. You listen, and you empathize with their struggle, and indeed life is hard for some people.

Then you look at yourself and all that you have. You may begin to feel some guilt, then some sense of a need to help them. You want to help, but you have only so much life, energy, time, and money.

In the Bible, there is a story, or in particular, a phrase from that story, that can kick into gear and hit the guilt-trip button.

My Brothers Keeper 

It is the story of the first murder and an attempt to deflect blame.

It comes right from the story of Cain killing Abel in the first book of the Bible – Genesis.

Two brothers, Cain and Abel, bring gifts to God. Abel’s gift was accepted because he did what was right. Cain does not do what was right, and so it was rejected. Cain was furious, and God could see that he was angry. That is where we pick up the story.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance [facial expression] fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! Genesis 4:6-10

Before we go any further, the word ‘keeper’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Shomer’ which means ‘keeper,’ ‘guardian,’ and ‘watcher.’

At first glance, Cain wanted to avoid the issue. He knew exactly where Abel was. Avoid and hide by saying a lie. We all do it to see if we can get away with our murders.

Then he says, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ asking if he is the one that is meant to know where his brother is located. He is essentially saying, ‘How would I know that? There is no GPS tracker attached to him.’

God is offering an opportunity for Cain to come clean and confess to what he has done.

Instead, Cain tries to shift responsibility away from himself for what he had done and to put it on to God. Its a manipulation, an attempt to guilt-trip God.

Essentially he is saying ‘God, you knew I was angry and you did nothing about it. Arent you, God, the keeper, guardian, and watcher of Abel? You could have stopped all this. So don’t blame me. I can’t be held responsible for my actions.’

The point is that God could see Cain’s heart and the murderous anger within him. God warned him of it and Cain’s personal responsibility to master it. Cain chose to ignore God’s counsel.

Life is hard, and it’s easy to blame others and God for our difficulties, some of which may be quite valid.

But then we turn around and expect others, including God, to fix life, without any acceptance of our human failings and personal responsibilities. We project onto others our anger, pain, resentment, and try to guilt-trip manipulate them, including God, into making things better. It’s all about us.

We want God and others to do for us what we are expected to do for ourselves.

The ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ of being a brother or sister keeper

This little story tells us a lot about responsibility and where it starts and finishes.

The ‘Yes’

I believe that to some degree, I am to have a caring, loving, and keeping relationship with others.  When I see injustices, I need to respond. I am called to care for others and help them. I am, in a sense, to be like God in this instance where he warned Cain of what he could see could happen. I also need to make sure they know they are responsible to ‘master’ their own life.

As a father, I took full responsibility for my children when they were little. I was their keeper, guardian, and I watched over everything about them. As they got older, I passed over more of the responsibility to them. I gave them advice and let them make choices and accept the responsibility for the decisions they made. I didn’t rescue them, but they knew I was there for them.

The ‘No’

I am not my brothers or sisters keeper in the sense that I will not take responsibility for the choices they made.  I am not going to cross the line where I do for others what they could and should be doing for themselves. God didn’t intervene with Cain because Cain had freedom of choice. God does not have puppet strings ‘coming down from heaven’ connected to our movements.

Is someone ‘shoulding’ on you?

I’ve heard and seen it many times. Those words of ‘We should be doing more for them’.

The words may be voiced verbally, or they could be internal whispers that have a tinge of obligation, guilt shadowing around them.

I remember two women who used to come to our Tuesday night service. Well, actually they only ever came when we had a meal. Primarily they only came for what they could get. When I asked them if they could help wash some dishes, there was always some excuse that they couldn’t help. Great stories of struggle were told. There was an attitude that it was everyone else’s responsibility to look after them.

I would sense them trying to guilt-trip me, and they were masters at it. They had people running around after them doing all sorts of things. They had never really grown up. There was a dependency lifestyle, and they were milking it for all its worth. It was idleness instead of industry.

Whenever I sense this feeling of being guilt-tripped by a P.L.O.M. (Poor Little Old Me), I go to one question.

‘What are you doing about this?

I shift the responsibility back on to them. It’s like what God did with Cain when he said, ‘you must master it’.

I get very pragmatic and practical. I don’t rescue. Rescuing teaches nobody anything and only breeds resentment, tiredness, and fatigue in yourself and dependency on others.

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 

It may seem harsh, but I think there are too many people in society that are getting too much for doing too little. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, but I have met too many people who draw a government benefit, etc. that do nothing to make things better for themselves or others.

I know that not everyone is capable of maintaining a full-time job or even find one, but it’s the attitudes and belief systems of entitlement and dependency on others that annoy me.

Contrast that with the attitude of Paul

For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labor we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

In Mental Health, it could be facing your fears and going to see a doctor about your depression or anxiety. It could be taking that next millimeter step in recovery and asking for help to master the struggles to be self-responsible. You might need to learn how to say ‘No’ to the manipulations and guilt-trips projected on to you.

When you have the feelings of a guilt trip being loaded on you, and you hear the words of being a ‘Brothers Keeper’, ask yourself this. By helping them, is it genuinely helping them?

 

Mental Health is ... not caving into guilt-trips and being a 'brother's keeper'. It's teaching and modeling self -responsibility. CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Your future is not determined by your past or your parentage, but by your own choices-the the choices you make today and tomorrow. Now is the key to tomorrow, not yesterday. D. Riddell
  • We cannot excuse our sinful responses to others on the grounds of their mistreatment of us. We are responsible for what we do. Larry Crabb
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech.” Parker J. Palmer.
Questions to answer
  1. What happens in you when you sense you are being ‘guilt-tripped’?
  2. What is mentally healthier? To expect/ demand God to make life better for us, or to ask God to help us to discover God and to ‘master’ the struggles.
  3. How do you learn to be pragmatic in the face of emotional manipulation?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Jul 12, 2020
Are you Praying Against Yourself? The Abusive Art of Self-Deprecation
08:38

Words said, have power. Self-deprecation is to pray against the self, but we can learn to pray for the self and so develop healthier thinking patterns.

It was the words at the end of his sentence that caught my attention.

‘I’m so stupid; I always do things like that’.

You learn to notice them—little words used as qualifying comments that disempower the self.

I think that many of us have little words or sentences that we probably tell ourselves and others. Sometimes they slip out in conversation.

Maybe they are offered up as an excuse or reason for things being the way they are.

Most of these thought sentences are kept quietly to ourselves, where they can continue to shape and poison our thinking. We say them so many times that we become used to them. They are our default thinking regime.

As a child, I was taught to ‘not think too highly of oneself’ Romans 12:3 and that ‘pride comes before a fall’ Proverbs 16:18

So the obvious course is to think lowly of yourself and to keep yourself humble through a self-flagellation diatribe of dismissive self-talk.

We self-deprecate as a spiritual discipline, thinking we are doing the right thing.

Yet, I believe, all this self-deprecation can become like poison leaking into the groundwater of our soul.

It can slowly poison us to where we loath ourselves, and we consider ourselves as a worm and as a wretch. Sit in a pile of pus long enough, and you will get sick.

Our velcro brain looks for the negative.

The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. [This] shades “implicit memory” – your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood – in an increasingly negative direction. Rick Hanson

The abusive art of self-deprecation 

Some have mastered the art of self-deprecation. They are perfectionists at belittling and undervaluing themselves. Then they turn their attention towards others.

It’s very interesting to look into the background of the word deprecate.

To ‘deprecate’ means to ‘pray against’.

Early 17th century (in the sense’ pray against’): from Latin deprecat- ‘prayed against (as being evil)’, from the verb deprecari, from de- (expressing reversal) + precari’ pray.’

When we self-deprecate, we pray against the self and various parts of who we are.

We use words to cut ourselves down. This gets, as I have said, into the groundwater of our soul, our self-talk becomes contaminated with this poison. We drink from this well, thinking it’s normal. Our brain wiring rope bridges keep being reinforced.

If I were to say that I was going to ‘deprecate’ you, to ‘pray against you’, then you would consider this as being abusive.

If we see a parent vomiting toxic words on a child or witness an abusive husband, wife, employer, we would call this abuse. Yet we tolerate and possibly admire people who do this to themselves. We think it’s ok to do it to ourselves.

Crushed Soul

Is your soul being crushed?

I read this passage the other day.

Fools are undone by their big mouths;     their souls are crushed by their words. Proverbs 18:7

What words are you saying to yourself? What words are you saying to others?

I’ve met many people whose souls have been crushed. Either by the words of others or by the words they have ‘deprecated’ (prayed) over themselves.

We can’t control the actions of others. Some people are going to spill poison on us because that is what’s in them. They need to take responsibility for themselves.

But we can control ourselves and our response to their poison. Do we take it in, do we deprecate ourselves with it?

Praying for the self  If we deprecate or pray against the self, perhaps a better and healthier alternative is to pray for the self. To pray in support of the self.

What would that look like?

Perhaps it would be praying positive, loving, and compassionate words about ourselves.

  • I am loved
  • I am known
  • I have worth
  • I have value
  • God loves me, and I am worthy of this love
  • God rejoices over me, renews me, and delights in me. Zephaniah 3:17

What does your crushed soul most need to hear?

This is where journaling and a thinking compass can help.

Journalling can be useful to unpack many of those self-deprecating thoughts we keep telling our souls. Then we can use a thinking compass to record down prayers of positivity, love, and compassion to help us rewire the brain.

Words said, have power. When we self-deprecate, we pray against the self, but we can learn to pray for the self and so develop healthier thinking patterns.

 

Mental Health is ... self praying faith, hope, and love into your soulCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
  • To shift a truth from your head to your heart, speak it loud, speak it often, and make a deliberate choice to believe it. David Riddell
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behavior than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Do you notice when people say little words of ‘self-deprecation’?
  2. What words do you tell yourself? Are they encouraging words or critical words?
  3. What words do you need to pray over your self?
Further reading Barry Pearman Photo by Florian Krumm on Unsplash
Jul 03, 2020
The Right Word at the Right Time – A Rhema Word
13:34

We can get into thinking ruts, but the right word at the right time can lift us out and move us into new and better thinking. So we need to be searching for the Rhema words.

It was only a short sentence that he said, but the words seemed to have power behind them. It was like a new path had opened up for me that gave me some encouraging hope. They were the right words at the right time. I quickly wrote them down in my notebook so I could reread them later.

Words can have that effect. They some times jump out of seemingly nowhere and say ‘This is for you’.

Words such as

  • You have worth
  • You matter
  • You can do this

 

Custom-made words

You can always tell a great orator. They are wordsmiths. Somehow, with clever creativity, they weave together a few words, tell a story, and move you emotionally. Something changes in you.

But what if there was a sentence that was custom-made for you. An encouragement, a piece of wisdom, an acknowledgment.

The writer of the proverbs tells us this.

The right word at the right time     is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. Proverbs 25:11

I’ve never had a piece of custom-made jewelry. The nearest I have come to this was when my mother used to knit woolen jerseys for me as a child. She would measure me up with a tape measure and write down on a pad my measurements. It was a very special feeling when she would present to me a perfectly fitting jersey, custom-made for me.

Some words are custom-made for you that you need to hear.

Rhema and Logos

In the Bible, we find that there are two different Greek words to refer to the word of God. One of these words is logos, and the other is rhema.

Logos refers to the written text—lots and lots of words. We read the logos, and we can gain knowledge about God and history and all sorts of amazing things.

Rhema is different and refers to the intimate speaking of God to us. It is that breath of truth we need to hear. From knowledge, we move to knowing.

Jesus knew the importance of listening for the rhema.

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word (rhema) that comes from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:4

The words (rhema) that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. John 6:63

I have listened to a lot of logos. I have gained a lot of knowledge from studying the Bible and reading many books. But in this quest, I have longed for the rhema. It’s those custom-made God breathes that excite me the most.

I so need that truth to fill my brain and rewire its circuity.

How do you discover a rhema?

You won’t catch fish in a desert. You go where fish swim.

If you want gold, you go to where it’s buried.

One of my enduring memories of my parents was their reading of a devotional bible study every morning. It was one of their ways of searching things out, looking for the rhema.

Much of what we most need to hear and know is hidden away like rare gemstones.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,     but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2

I have a little phrase that keeps me searching. I have to ‘get in the way’ of God to discover what I need to hear. I keep knocking on the door of God’s wisdom house, asking for bread in the middle of the night. I ‘get in the way’, seek, and knock.

“Here’s what I’m (Jesus) saying: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. Luke 11:5-9

Too many of us are sitting and waiting for a God to do home deliveries of truth and then to spoon-feed us like babies. It’s in the seeking that opens our brain up into new ways of living.

I was once a pastor to a group of people where most of them struggled with serious mental illness. One of the ladies in the group had severe paranoid schizophrenia. She would frequently come to wild and delusional conclusions about people and situations. Along with health professionals, I would help her to work through these. Shame would come, and we would talk and walk through the struggle.

Many people found her difficult to be around. They lost patience with her.

I remember her one day telling me about her Bible reading. That every day she would read the scriptures and ponder on them.

I suggested that we read them together and talk about them. She pulled out a very worn bible with underlined verses and notes in the margin.

Here is what excited me. She was getting in the way of God. She was knocking on the door, seeking the truth, looking for the Rhema, and I was invited to part of her exploration. She may have been discounted by the rich and socially acceptable, but she was adored by God.

Feeding on rhema

Recently I had a rhema breathed on to me. Here it is.

‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’

That may not speak to you a great deal, it may seem irrelevant, but for my heart, it speaks the truth.

I felt its breath when I was reading Psalm 20

See those people polishing their chariots,     and those others grooming their horses?     But we’re making garlands for God our God. The chariots will rust,     those horses pull up lame—     and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall. Psalm 20:7-8

It’s so easy to have our focus on what others are achieving. Their supposed successes, their ‘polished chariots’ and ‘groomed horses’. Comparisonitis kills the soul. The psalmist takes us to where our true focus is meant to be. Doing something beautiful and delighting to God.

So, ‘Im making garlands for God’ via my writing, gardening, and general life activities.

Every day I am presented with ‘polished chariots’ and ‘groomed horses’ that can sicken me with comparisonitis, but I feed on truth, on rhema, and therefore I retrain the brain.

I have added, ‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’ to my thinking compass. I read that compass every day to help me keep on course. Slowly and surely, I am creating a new rope bridge in my brain. Every time I repeat the phrase ‘I’m making garlands for God, my God.’ in my brain, that synapse in the brain gets stronger and stronger.

When you receive a Rhema, it’s your responsibility to care for it. To memorize it and take it into your thinking.

We can get into thinking ruts, but the right word at the right time can lift us out and move us into new and better thinking. So we need to be searching for the Rhema words.

 

Mental health is ... seeking after that Rhema word. The right word at the right time. CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Our great problem is trafficking in unlived truth. We try to communicate what we’ve never experienced in our own life. Dwight L. Moody
  • Transformation is possible. It is possible to acquire the consciousness of Christ. It is possible to know God, not just believe in God. And it is possible to engage life with the wisdom that flows from this deep inner knowing. David Benner
  • Nothing digs ditches like shovel fulls of dirt. Rick Hanson
Questions to answer
  1. What have been some words that have met you just at the right time?
  2. Where do you ‘Ask, seek, and knock’ for your daily rhema bread?
  3. Have you ever had something custom-made for you? What feelings did that generate in you?
Further reading

How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking

Change the way you think and act

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Jun 24, 2020
How to Create New Rope Bridges in our Thinking
13:08

Our thoughts can take us to both the best and worst of places, but we can create new thinking pathways. It will require a plan to rope bridge the synapse gap. 

It was a small rope bridge, and it had only three wires. One wire where you could place your feet, and then two higher wires to the left and right where you could stretch your arms out and grasp with your hands. It wasn’t that high, a mere 5 feet off the ground, but it was high enough that on this confidence course, it provided a challenge.

I used to be a pastor to a group where most of the people involved had serious long-term mental health struggles. Most of the people I supported struggled with either anxiety, depression, P.T.S.D., schizophrenia, addictions, personality disorders, or something else that made life hard for them.

Twice a year, we would go away for a camp. Sandy beach, fishing, good food, fun, and a confidence course.

We would then invite people to try the rope bridge. With several helpers, we would encourage the person to take the first step and then the next. You could see the fear etched into their faces.

We would tell them they were doing great and to keep focused on the other end. Telling them to take one step at a time. We would even hold the wire for them to stop it wobbling.

The bridge would wobble and shift, but with every step, the walker would inch their way across. Photos were taken, and celebrations and high fives at the end.

For some, it became a goal at every camp to walk that wire bridge. They were learning something new. It was hard, scary, and a challenge, but inside their brains, they were also creating a new rope bridge.

For many of them, they had to stop listening to the worst words they had repeatedly been telling themselves.

The worst words

I think the worst words anyone can say are ‘I can’t change.’ Or words to that effect, such as ‘That’s just who I am’ and ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’

It disappoints me because it speaks to a belief of hopelessness, despair, and defeat. They are ‘locked in’ to a set of thinking and behavior habits.

I want to whisper, and maybe even shout, ‘Resurrection’ into those neurons. Bringing new life and hope.

What we can learn from a rope bridge

One of the most informative videos about how we learn something new comes from Dr. Robert Winston in his series The Human Body.

 

 

Transcript: Learning something new means rearranging the way our brain works.

Our brain has an astonishing one hundred billion neurons or brain cells all connected together. Learning is about creating and strengthening pathways through these neurons for impulses of electricity. But between each and every connection in our brains is a tiny gap called a synapse. For any of us to learn something new, the electrical signal has to jump across this gap to continue its journey.

The gap between the two brain cells is tiny, but that doesn’t mean its straight forward for a signal to get from one side to the other. For us, it’s like crossing a deep ravine, and getting from one side to the other should tell us something about the way we learn.

The first time a signal crosses from one brain cell to the other demands the most effort, and it’s the same when we cross our ravine. The first trip across it is the hardest.

Having crossed the ravine once the journeys across get easier and easier, and a similar thing happens when we learn something.

To start with, learning is difficult, but as the signal crosses the gap between the brain cells, again and again, we establish a more solid pathway.

By the time we have made the crossing over and over again, it becomes effortless. We can do it whenever we like.

New thinking pathways

Watching and thinking about that video I have seven observations

  1. A conscious decision needs to be made. It’s a choice you have to make to begin thinking differently. So, do you want to think differently? Yes or No.
  2. A behavior is required. You can talk about change as much as you like, but following through with behavior and taking action is where it’s at. For me, it is reading my ‘Thinking compass’ every day. It’s me saying to the synapses that this matters. I prayerfully ask God to create that new pathway in the brain.
  3. It takes effort We want change to happen magically, don’t we, but it will require effort on our part to build new pathways in our thinking.
  4. It takes time It is going to take about 60 -70 days to get that new pathway slotted in and on autopilot, and the old one pruned apart. See Dr.Shannon Irvine
  5. Repetition strengthens the path. In the video, we saw how, with each crossing, the strength of the bridge increased. From a single rope, it then became a bridge with planks you could walk across. Back and forth, back and forth, it was the purposeful repetition that built the strength of the bridge.
  6. Old pathways slowly lose their power. We used to go this way in our thinking, but now we have a better route. I used to crawl, but then I found walking to be better. Walking is the automatic default way of moving now.When I talk about this with others, I like them to imagine that old wire bridge, the old thinking pathway/bridge falling into disrepair. It has cobwebs growing over it, it’s not getting maintained, and so slowly over time, it loses its appeal, and it falls apart.
  7. Encouragement from others helps build the bridge. I’m glad that Robert Winston had someone helping him build his bridge. It’s precisely the same when we are learning something new, creating new brain pathways. To have a guide, coach, or a friend that cheers us along in our thinking will help us reinforce our new life.
By default or by design

One of the little thinking coaches I have in my daily thinking compass is this.

Life happens one thought at a time by default or design.

Many of my default thinking pathways have a negativity bias to them, but I know that I can change the way I think and act. It’s my brain, my responsibility, and so, I choose to live my life by design.

My brain is rewiring itself. With a sense of design, I want to think about

whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Our thoughts can take us to both the best and worst of places, but we can create new thinking pathways. It will require a plan to bridge the synapse gap.

 

Mental Health is ... proactively creating new thinking pathways in the same way a new rope bridge is made.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • You are the creator of your thoughts, and it’s your thoughts that can create the future that you want. It really is in your control. Dr. Shannon Irvine
  • If it’s been learned, it can always be unlearned. e.g., ways of coping, personal habits, survival kits, and nasty addictions. D. Riddell
  • A changed life demands having new understandings in place when you need them. Store them up now and lubricate by revision. D. Riddell
  • The chief thief is the belief beneath. The subconscious is always the power behind the decisions we make and the outcomes we experience. David Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. How much do you think you are in control of your thoughts?
  2. What did you learn from the video?
  3. Is there some thinking habit that you need to unlearn by creating a new neural pathway?
Further reading

BarryPearman

Photo by Valentina Girelli on Unsplash

Jun 18, 2020
Change the way you think and act
10:44

Do you keep making the same bad choices over and over again? You can change, and it all begins with a decision to change the way you think and act.

It was New Zealand’s worst airline disaster. On November 28th, 1979, Air New Zealand Flight 901 flew into Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica. All 237 passengers and 20 crew died.

I remember the first news reports coming in on TV in the evening, saying that the flight was overdue and that contact had been lost. We woke the next morning to a tragedy.

Initially, it was concluded that it was pilot error, but a Royal Commission was set up to dig deeper. It found that two factors caused the accident. A correction made to the coordinates of the flight path the night before the disaster and a failure to inform the flight crew of the change.

The result was that the aircraft was being guided by the computer in a direct path toward Mount Erebus.

.

Surely you would think the pilots would be able to see the mountain in front of them and steer to avoid it, but they were in whiteout conditions.

Outside there was a layer of clouds that blended with the white of the snow-covered volcano, forming a sector whiteout – there was no contrast between the two to warn the pilots. The effect deceived everyone on the flight deck, making them believe that the white mountainside was the Ross Ice Shelf. Mount Erebus disaster

Then there was the attempt to cover up the causes of the disaster. Justice Mahon, chair of the Royal Commission, accused Air New Zealand of presenting “an orchestrated litany of lies.”

Your disaster

I’ve known a few disasters in my life. I’ve also seen others have crashes. Many of them preventable.

Then there are those crashes that are repeated time and time. You keep on doing the same thing, expecting different results, but wind up with the same disaster on your hands.

You blame other people. Accusations fly. You hide the facts and twist the truth.  You orchestrate a ‘litany of lies’ believing them to be true. Deep down, though, it was you that was making the same decisions.

It’s like you have an onboard computer with wrong coordinates loaded into it, flying you towards an inevitable disaster.

Change the way you think and act.

Then there was a time of momentous change in the history of the world, but for one man, it got extremely personal. He had his inbuilt computer brain telling him to always respond to a situation in a certain way.

Even though he had been a follower of Jesus for three years, and had listened to everything Jesus had said, seen all the miracles, he still had the disaster.

Peter denied knowing Jesus, and suddenly his world collapsed.

Later he was forgiven and restored, but this was a pivotal moment in Peter’s life. It was a time of course correction. He had to change his thinking and acting.

Later, that is his message to an equally misguided group of people.

Change the way you think and act. Acts 2:38 3:19

Change is a course correction—an alteration in your thinking, which leads to new actions and behaviors.

One of my favorite quotes is from the French philosopher, Christian mystic, and social activist Simeon Weil.

Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil, Waiting for God

We all have turned our gaze in the wrong direction. All of us have some disastrous coordinates programmed into our neural pathways.  Often these are there from childhood. Early conclusions we made about life steers our ship.

Every day we have experiences that subconsciously reinforce our belief that …

  • The world is a dangerous place
  • No one can be trusted
  • I have no worth
  • My situation can’t change
  • I have no rights
  • (what is a deep belief that you hold)
The dance of course correction

There is a dance that we are invited to participate in. It’s a dance of ‘course correction’.

When I was in school, we had square dancing. We would choose a partner, and then four couples would stand in a square. The frazzled teacher (frazzled after herding children) would put a record on the record player and out would come some scratchy American folk singer encouraging us to take your partner, swing them to the left and right, dosey doe and go to someplace called ‘Red River Valley’.

It was rhythm and patterns, and you got to dance with that pretty girl!

I believe we are all in a course correction dance with partners who are perfect in every way, know the exact steps to take, and are very gracious about our stepping on their toes.

My little logo for Turning the Page symbolizes this.

Four dancing spirals, or Koru. God as Parent, Jesus the Son, and Spirit is inviting us to change the way we think and act.

I get invitations to course-correct every day. Some I ignore and some I explore. Some I take in and make them part of my thinking compass.

I don’t want you or anyone else to keep on heading towards disasters – large or small, but it requires a willingness to change the way you think and act.

 

Mental Health is ... accepting that we need to change the way we think and actCLICK TO TWEET

 

Quotes to consider
  • Metanoeite, or change of consciousness, can only come with time. Patience is the very shape of love. Without it, religion is merely about enforcing laws and requirements. Richard Rohr Patience
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
Questions to consider
  1. Do you ever have moments where you mutter to yourself, ‘Why do I keep on doing that’?
  2. We all want others to change, but how difficult is it to change yourself? Why?
  3. What is a false, misleading belief that you have that seems to look for evidence of being true? e.g., I have no worth
Further Reading

What Swiss Cheese has taught me about Forgiving Myself and Others

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Mental Health is … You Taking Ownership of You

Barry Pearman

Photo by Vandan Patel on Unsplash

 
Jun 11, 2020
Breaking it down before you breakdown: David and Goliath
06:17

Stress can add up to be too much, and we can have a mental health breakdown, but when we break it down like in the story of David and Goliath, we can find a way through the chaos.

Stressful times can feel like a massive avalanche of overwhelming pressure. The keyword in that sentence is ‘feel.’  You have a feeling of living in the overwhelming shadow of something that could crush you.

It was like an overflowing river of complaints.

It took her an hour to express all her problems and pains to me. She had not been listened to for some time, and all the fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and plain tiredness had to be released. I think she thought I had some sort of magic prayer wand that could be waved and all the problems would disappear.

Instead, I suggested that we, together, break it down before she had a breakdown. Then I told her a Bible story.

It’s the story of David and Goliath. You can read the story in full here, but it’s the story of a little guy taking on a bully, and when we look further into the story, we can glean some ideas of how to handle our stress.

David and Goliath And

When looking at stressful situations, there are a lot of ‘and’s.’ This problem and that problem and then this situation and then that issue and of course this crisis and then that situation. Lots and lots of ‘and’s.’

The story of David and Goliath is full of ‘and’s.’

A fearful King. And a large hostile army facing the Israelites. And an ‘incredible hulk’ kind of warrior facing them. And no one brave enough to fight. And dismay And terror.

Do you see how the ‘and’s’ add up? They keep adding and adding and adding until we lose sight of the individual components. It all adds to it being one HUGE PROBLEM.

But

But there was a young teenage boy, David, visiting his brothers. But he had trained himself to kill lions and bears. But he knew how to handle a slingshot. But he knew how to pick the perfect stones for aerodynamic accuracy. But he knew where the weak spot was that would kill. But he knew his God. But he knew how to breakdown any overwhelming problem into its constituent parts and to take action. But he was dismissed as being too young.

For every problem that feels overwhelming, there is a ‘but.’

Therefore

It’s time to take action.

Therefore David fell back on the confidence and faith that he had developed when facing lions and bears. Therefore David rejected the offer of the King’s armor and weapons. Therefore David chose five smooth stones. Therefore he prayed. Therefore he narrowed his focus to aim for the perfect headshot. Therefore he overcame.

David went in ‘the strength that he had’ much like Gideon was called to do (see Three Bible Verses to Reassure when You feel Stress)

Break it down before you breakdown

Much of the stress we face can feel overwhelming, like a Goliath, but it can be broken down into smaller and smaller components.

At times we need to get quite pragmatic about our lives.

  • What is in my control and what is not.
  • What I can do and what others need to do.
  • What I am responsible for and what I am not responsible for.

When we breakdown the problem into manageable chunks, we can then tackle each part of the problem in bite-sized pieces. As they say, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time’.

What is your Goliath?

What taunts you? Is there something that seems overwhelming and huge that you are facing. Does it feel too big for you to cope with?

Break it down before it breaks you down.

 

Mental Health is ... learning how to be pragmatic and to breakdown problems, before they break you downCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • A goal without a plan is just a wish.― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. Linus Pauling
  • Before you get anything else, get organized. It will always save you time and trouble and unnecessary anger. David Riddel
Questions to answer
  1. Thinking of a situation you are facing, what are its parts?
  2. What is a ‘Goliath’ to you?
  3. What are the ‘but’s’ in your life that you can strengthen yourself in?
Further reading

7 Mental Health Benefits of Having a ‘Can Do’ Task List.

How to Help Others Solve Problems in 8 Steps

Three Bible Verses to Reassure when You feel Stress

Barry Pearman

Photo by Kylo on Unsplash

Learn more about A, B, T – And, But, Therefore writing from Randy Olson.

Jun 08, 2020
Three Bible Verses to Reassure when You feel Stress
09:43

There are times we feel stress, but there is the hope of reassurance when we meditate on some Bible verses.

One of my favorite bible characters was someone who seemed to need consistent reassurance when under stress. He was anxious, unsure, and seemed to want to argue with God. I like that because it means he was much like many of us.

He was human, and that’s important to remember. God chose someone like us. God still chooses imperfect people to do great things. His name was Gideon.

Three Bible Verses to Reassure

Imagine, if you can, that an oppressive all-powerful military force has invaded your land. You are in hiding and no longer living in your home. Instead, you are living in caves and hiding in the countryside. You grow some crops only to have them destroyed. Any animals you have, get slaughtered by the army.

You are living in fear and always looking over your back, wondering when the next attack would come. You cry out to God for help and wait. This was Gideon’s life.

He was so full of fear that he chose a winepress, somewhere he couldn’t be seen to grind out a small amount of wheat.

But in that hidden place, an angel appeared.

The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. Judges 6:12

Presence challenges perception

Whatever is stressing you out, there is a greater bigger story going on.

We can get so captured by the human reality of the situation that we lose awareness of the bigger story. That God is with us and that God has a different view of us and what is stressing us out.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Judges 6: 12

The phrase ‘The Lord is with you’ is repeated throughout the Bible, and when we come to taste the awareness of presence, then our perception of ourselves is invited to change.

The angel gave Gideon the truest version of himself – ‘Mighty warrior.’

I wonder what an Angel would say about you as the truest version of yourself?

When you are sitting in the presence of the eternal, then the present reality loses its power over you. You begin to feel held in something bigger than your version of what’s going on.

Our perception is blinked

To prevent horses from seeing to the rear and, in some cases, to the side, blinkers are placed near the eyes.  These are little flaps placed near the eyes. They have a ‘blinkered view’.

Their world is captured in what they can see.

When under stress, our perception of things can become so narrow and tight that we lose sight of anything else. Our version of reality becomes fixed.

Gideon had a blinkered version of what reality and God was meant to be like. We all do. His version was much like ours. ‘God, you promised this and that, why haven’t you come through on my terms of what blessing is meant to look like’.

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6: 13

I think the angel could see his blinkers. No debate was ventured into, no apologetics lectures were given, and no arguing over various texts. Logic was not going to change his heart, but perhaps a millimeter faith step would. 

The strength you have

I was once publicly shamed by a pastor from the pulpit. He didn’t say my name, but enough people knew that it was me he was referring to when he talked about people not having enough faith to go on the mission field. I was in a leadership coaching group he was leading, and it was a topic I brought up the previous week. So much for confidentiality.

‘The Lord’ ( no longer an angel) speaks to this blinkered hiding man. Try and see yourself in Gideon’s shoes. 

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” Judges 6:14

Why I brought up that personal story is that faith and confidence grow little by little and step by step.

Gideon is encouraged to ‘Go in the strength you have’. He wasn’t told to be a Superhero, to fake it until you make it, to be something he wasn’t, to leap, and wait for the net to catch him. You can’t be someone else. You can only be you, so start there.

Instead, he was to start where he was. Faith steps begin from where you are and move to where you can be next.

When under high-stress, I like to be very pragmatic and down to earth. I break the problems down into the smallest tiniest little steps to take and then ‘Go in the strength that I have’ to resolve them.

Surprise! It’s you that’s been chosen 

I never thought that I would have a website with weekly posts about Mental Health and Faith. I had a blinkered view, but God didn’t.

Gideon is given an empowering question. A question that moves him to think about the blinkers constricting his life.

“Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:14

Out of everyone available, God chose Gideon. We think we have to be a specific type of person or have various qualifications to be of use to God. God looks at the heart and starts there.

This is a Bible verse that chooses you to consider choosing yourself. Can you do that?

Three Bible Verses

All of us, from time to time, have difficult, stressful times. Periods where we feel alone and anxious. In a winepress doing the daily grind. In those times, it’s important to meditate on these three Bible verses.

  1. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
  2. “Go in the strength you have.”
  3. “Am I not sending you?” Judges 6:12, 14
Quotes to consider
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We’re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • Faith is not the opposite of doubt. Faith is the opposite of certitude. Where you don’t need to be certain to be happy. If you can’t go there you’ll never be happy because you’ll never get logical certitude. If you’re waiting for 100% certitude you’re never going to happy. Richard Rohr. Podcast: Trust is a Rock You Can Build Upon
Questions to answer
  1. What would an angel say to you about who you truly are?
  2. What is the little millimeter faith step God is calling you to take today?
  3. What is it like to know that you’re not alone in those stress-filled times?
Further reading

5 Steps to take when the Panic button has been pushed

How to Develop a Compass for the Brain

Fight, Flight, or Freeze. There is a Mental Health invite Underneath.

Barry Pearman

Photo by Christian Erfurt on Unsplash

Jun 07, 2020
Cast your Bread. It’s vital you do
10:32

Cast your bread. You can hold it to yourself, that special thing about you, but it is better for everyone if you ‘Cast your bread.’  Focus on the micro gifts of today.

Even in winter, the children still ask if there are strawberries to pick.

I manage a large vegetable garden at a primary school here in Auckland, and it always amuses me when the children ask me if there are any strawberries. They don’t yet fully understand the concept of seasons and having to wait.

That there is a time to sow and a time reap.

I enjoy harvest time. It’s so good to be picking fresh fruit and vegetables straight from the garden. One of the delights at the school is to pick some fresh ripe tomatoes and then slice a section and give it to a young child.

The taste is so much better than store-bought. Maybe because it’s been grown in soil, without vast amounts of chemical fertilizers and sprays, but also perhaps that the children are involved in the planting and the picking.

Modern Immediacy

Today it’s a world of immediacy. With the quickness of internet speed, we expect to get what we want when we want it.

We go to our supermarket shelves in the middle of winter and can find summer fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps we have lost some sense of waiting with patient expectancy.

Rhythm is built into creation, and the problem with the modern world is that you can get tomatoes at 2 am Rob Bell

Cast your bread

There is a strange little verse in the Bible that genuinely makes you scratch your head.

Cast your bread upon the waters,     for you will find it after many days. Ecclesiastes 11:1

I see myself with a loaf of bread, throwing it into a river and then it coming back to me after a few days as a soggy mess. Now that is weird!

So we need to go back to what the first readers would have heard—their interpretation of this cryptic passage.

Cast – to cast something was to spread it out. Typically in those times, it referred to seed.  A farmer would go and ‘cast’ his seed out into the fields. In these modern days, we have machines that are very precise and will drill or sow the seed to precisely the right depth and placement for optimum germination. In the days of old, it was random, rough, and ready.

Bread – another reference to seed. Bread comes from milled grain. The grain is the seed. Every year at harvest time, a portion of the crop was set aside to be sown at a later date. When the season came for sowing, there better be enough seed. So, in essence, you were sowing your bread.

Waters – You don’t sow seed into water, but you do sow it when you know that the soil will become wet with rain. In Israel, the early rains come in October / November to loosen up the sun-baked dirt. A farmer would go out and cultivate the soil ready for ‘water’ to fill furrows. The seed would then be cast into the ‘waters’ and germinate.

Find it after many days – that little seed, sown in faith, would grow and develop and create seed itself. This would take ‘many days.’ There was not an exact date when the harvest would take place, but more a season.

So many factors come into play as to how well that cereal plant would grow. Many unseen and unknown factors express themselves on that growing plant. There is a mystery, and much of its growth is beyond our control. 

The joy of harvest 

Harvest is a beautiful time. It is that moment where you know the fruit of your labor. You taste it and enjoy its freshness. You want to be forever living in that emotional happiness of reward and satisfaction.

That buzz or thrill can become addictive.

I want it all, I want it now, and I don’t want to have to do the work to get it. We want the delight of intimacy, but we don’t want to do the risky work of relationship building. Please relieve my emotional pain relief, but without the hard work of discovering what’s under the pain.

For most of our days, we are cultivating, sowing seed, and waiting. We trust, and we hope. Confidence grows year upon year, harvest season upon harvest season.

Snake Oil salesman

I think there are many ‘Snake Oil salesmen’ in our world. They offer a quick fix, a panacea to our problems.

In 2019 the most popular searched item on Google was ‘Disney Plus.’

We want our diversions, our harvest of buzz emotions. We want to be told ‘nice things,’ things that will make us ‘feel better.’

“They tell their preachers,     “Don’t waste our time on impracticalities. Tell us what makes us feel better.     Don’t bore us with obsolete religion. That stuff means nothing to us.     Quit hounding us with The Holy of Israel.” Isaiah 30:8-11

We want the harvest without the sweat of cultivation and the casting of our essence to the unknown. Sowing to something beyond our control. To faith, hope, and love.

The joy of the cast 

What if we were to take a joyful approach to the daily grind of a little movement each day.

I enjoy sowing seeds. I get my little packet of seed, open up the tinfoil wrapper and sprinkle the seed on to some seedling mix compost, cover them and water and wait.

The seed, in a sense, dies to its former structure. In that small dry husky shell, some water reaches in and begins the magic. Cells divide and multiply, and before long, a root comes out. Then bursting through the soil a shoot emerges. 

There is already a harvest of growth and change. It’s exciting. Given a few more ‘many days’ and I will be picking tomatoes and slicing cucumbers for children dulled by supermarket immediacy. 

I also sow seeds every week via this blog. I cast them wide and far. Some touch down on good soil and reap a harvest multiple times over. Some seed lands on stones and paths and rocky places. Parable of the Sower

The important thing is to keep on sowing because there is a joy in the seed landing and taking root in people’s lives.

Where are you throwing your life away

Those early subsistence farmers had a choice. Do I eat the seed or not? How much I do keep for myself and my family, and how much do I set aside for sowing?

The same question is ours.

How much of the good are you holding in yourself? Keeping it in and not sharing what you have been given.

That giftedness you have. That unique quality or skill or knowledge you alone seem to have.

My mother made beautiful knitted garments. Many hours she could be seen knitting exquisite baby clothes. Her great-grandbabies wear them now, and maybe even their great-grandbabies will wear them too!

Now that is what I call a harvest from casting to the waters.

What would you most like to harvest in your life? Is it joy, peace, happiness, contentment? Focus on the ‘cast’ of the moment. In ‘many days,’ and maybe even not in your lifetime, there will be a harvest.

 

Mental Health is ... celebrating this present moment of the microscopic 'cast your bread upon the waters' knowing that there will be a harvest in the future.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • I’ve got this thing in my heart I must give you today It only lives when you Give it away Bruce Cockburn – Give it away
  • Happiness is found in being free—free from our attachment to circumstances and possessions, and free from our compulsion to gratify our need for power, affection, and security. Liberation is found in the little deaths we surrender to every day. Phileena Heuertz
  • You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. John Bunyan
  • For it is in giving that we receive. St. Francis of Assisi
Questions to answer
  1. What little micro ‘cast’ can you make today?
  2. Has a ‘Snake Oil Salesmen’  sold you lie? If so, what is it?
  3. What would you like to most harvest in your life?
Further reading

How ‘Going the extra Mile’ Flips the Power Dynamics

Life’s not Fair! There is a Mystery to be Known

God is Pruning Me for Love, Joy, and Peace

Barry Pearman

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Jun 03, 2020
Is There a Barrier Stopping You From Getting the Help You Need?
07:20

There are many barriers to getting the help we need for our Mental Health, but the barriers can be taken down, and new hope can be found.

Today as you read this blogpost, approximately ten visits will be made to read the blog post ‘I’ve Had Enough, Take my Life God, I Want to die.’ 

Since writing it in January 2018, it has been read 9000 times. The page comes up as the second offering on google for the search terms ‘take my life God I want to die’.

People all over the world, in the privacy of their pain, are coming to Turning the Page for help.

That scares me. Not that I don’t think I have something to offer them, but that they are expressing their pain to a machine and not a person.

Ok, maybe those that type ‘God I want to die’ into google have reached out to another human soul for help. I hope so, but even in reaching out, there will be other barriers to push through.

There is a barrier. Something is stopping the movement to honesty.

The barrier of …

I’m struggling to find the perfect word to describe this barrier. Could it be the word ‘pride’?

Pride is one of those words that gets a bad rap because it takes our mind to the term arrogance, an over-inflated sense of the self. But pride is more devious than that.

Pride says in confident tones.

‘You’re not like everyone else. You’re different, and you’re ok. You don’t need help to walk this path.  You can solve this problem. There is nothing in you that needs help.’

Coming at night

There is an interesting little story in the Bible about a senior Jewish leader and his communications with Jesus. His name was Nicodemus.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night John 3:1,2

There was a desired hiddenness to the movements of Nicodemus. He didn’t want to be seen by others in his approach to Jesus. In today’s world, he may well have kept his anonymity, and his soul questions private by searching on Google.

We come at night because we are uncertain about the reception of our honesty.

Alcoholics Anonymous and all the other similar recovery type groups begin with a ruthlessly honest assessment of pride.

‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.’

We type into Google

What do you privately type into Google? What, in the secrecy of coming to Jesus at night, would you ask?

I have a short survey form that occasionally people leave their ‘at night’ private comments and questions.

They don’t have to leave their name or any contact details, but it is helpful if they do because often I have some gently curious questions I would like to ask.

I think if you look at the life of Jesus, he asked a lot of gentle and curious questions, especially to those who came by night. I want to be like that.

So here is my ‘and he came by night’ super confidential survey.

powered by

 

Is money a barrier?

Another common barrier that stops people from getting the help they need is money. They don’t have the money to be able to afford counseling or therapy. Books and courses cost too much.

That is why Turning the Page is funded on a ‘Pay What You Want‘ basis. I don’t want finance to be a barrier to people getting help.

 

Mental health is ... understanding the barriers we face and seeking a path through themCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • One of the greatest barriers in seeking help is the stigma that comes with needing it. Courtney Subramanian
  • When man comes into the presence of God he will find, whether he wishes it or not, that all those things which seemed to make him so different from the men of other times, or even from his earlier self, have fallen off. He is back where he always was, where every man always is. C.S. Lewis
  • The proud person always wants to do the right thing, the great thing. But because he wants to do it in his own strength, he is fighting not with man, but with God.  Soren Kierkegaard
Questions to answer
  1. What barriers hinder or stop you or others from getting help?
  2. What part does pride play in stopping the movement to getting help?
  3. What questions do you secretly type into Google?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Matthew Garoffolo

May 11, 2020
You’re doing OK in the Face of Resistance
08:55

There is a resistance we all face into, but with the presence of others, we can know hope. So let’s listen.

It felt to her that she was the only one having struggles. Every day, as her eyes peeled open, there was an instantaneous thought ‘Can I do this’?

As someone who works outside in the wind and rain, I notice that the ambient surroundings have an effect on me. It might be the heat of the summer or the cold of winter. The mud that clings heavily to my boots in the winter or the brightness of the sun in the heat of summer. There is always a resistance I have to push into.

But it’s the wind that truly takes it out of me.

Working in a strong wind feels like life is being gouged out of me. You have to push into it to do anything. There is a resistance to movement. It’s tangible and real, but also unseen.

Having a mental illness can be like that. It’s always there and you have to push through it. It’s the thoughts and feelings that whistle and roar around your life, but you push on and you awake the next day to face it again.

I want to say well done.

Resistance

Writer Steven Pressfield talks about resistance in his book ‘War of Art’.

“Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. Resistance is protean. It will assume any form, if that’s what it takes to deceive you. It will reason with you like a lawyer or jam a nine-millimeter in your face like a stickup man. Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” Steven Pressfield, The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle

There is a resistance that every writer has to push into. Its the push back words you hear in your head ‘Who are you to write anything’. The wind of ‘I don’t have anything to share’ and the hail storm of ‘Who is going to read this anyway’.

Right at the place of movement, there is a resistance. Will I move forward or will the wind push me back into nothingness.

For mental health, there is a resistance

To every moving forward in life, there will be the sensation of a push back.

Those winds that strike us every day can eventually wear us down. Like an autumn leaf losing its grip on the tree, it floats away and is lost.

Many of the readers of this blog have at times faced hurricanes. The stress load wind storm was too much for them and it crashed them to the ground.

Then someone minimized the storm you faced. Given so-called ‘wise advice’ after the tree had been torn from the ground. And now, with the roots ripped out from under you, any little breeze can echo storm warnings.

So many times I want to reach out and say a few words.

You’re doing OK Good enough is good enough Millimeters matter We rebuild together We do it at your pace We talk about the resistance

Religion annoys me

I get annoyed and saddened when people consider me as being religious.

What I hear them saying is that I am one of those ‘God followers’ who follows all the rules. That religion is all about rules and regulations, having a set of behaviors that you must do. Going to Church on Sunday, reading your Bible, etc.

Yet, in terms of following rules, I think every one of us has a religion we follow. A set of rules and beliefs we adhere to. Codes, ethics, and standards are found everywhere, not just in organized religious ‘church’ contexts. Your workplace has a religion to it, so does your sports club.

Relationship excites me

When Jesus sat down in ‘Church’ with his dirt under the toenails followers he said these words.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus was one who knew all about resistance. He had it in supernaturally large quantities. Every day he was facing into some sort of hurricane.

If you want to get all fancy with words, he did it vicariously. That word is a wonderful life-giving word. To be vicarious is to do something on behalf of another.

I want a relationship with someone who has been there done that. I don’t want a religion with them.

Jesus has broken the wind, like the bow of a ship breaking through the water. We can ride in behind knowing that he has and is going in front of us.

Can I sit with you?

Many many people simply need to know that they are not alone. That’s all that is required.

To have someone say to them that they are doing okay. To not have any heavy burdens or expectations laid on them. To be graced with grace.

Can you do this for someone you know?

 

Mental Health is ... understanding the resistance you face and going through it with someone else. You're not alone in what you face.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Deep happiness is conditional – it doesn’t simply happen. Success in mental/emotional health must be worked at. D. Riddell
  • Something wonderful and beautiful and resilient is within us that no abuse, rejection, or failure can ever destroy. I want us to focus on that. Larry Crabb
  • Comfort is the absence of tension; growth requires a swim in murky, dangerous waters. Dan Allender
  • We are wired to grow, and all growth stretches us beyond our comfort level. Dan Allender
Questions to answer
  1. What does the word ‘resistance’ mean to you?
  2. What are the winds pushing against your movement forward?
  3. Who is saying to you ‘You’re doing OK’ and who are you saying this to?
Further reading

 

Image cc: KARTIK GADA

May 07, 2020
Stress, Jenga and Washing the Dishes
09:00

We think our lives have a strength to them, but remove a few Jenga pegs, experience a shock, and we can easily topple to the stress. So we build with each other and find new resilience. 

A couple of mornings ago, my son said ‘Nice Jenga Dad.’ I was puzzled, for a moment then I realized he was talking about my dishwashing Jenga.

Jenga is a stacking game using perfectly shaped wooden blocks. Then one by one, a peg is removed and placed on the top of the tower until it topples over. It’s a game of skill and engineering.

Since the kids were little, we generally wash the dishes and stack them in the dish rack to be put away the next morning.

Now some of those dishwashing Jenga stackings can be mighty impressive. Its an art form to squeeze in a pot or two. Chopsticks can be poked in anywhere, but a large serving platter requires courage, wisdom, and a certain level of creativity.

Fortunately, where we live, we don’t have earthquakes or many large trucks passing by. So the Jenga stays secure.

Your Jenga

We all have a Jenga—a way we stack the various parts of our lives.

The pegs might be who cooks the meals, washes the dishes, pays the bills. What route you take to work. When you clean your teeth, wash your clothes and the way you stack your groceries. You have preferences, likes, dislikes.

Relationship stress with other Jengas also plays a part. How secure, or insecure, those Jengas nearest to you impacts you (pun intended!).

You stack it all up, and there is your daily/ weekly life. Mostly it’s pretty secure. It can stand a bit of a wobble, a slight knock here and there.

But under pressure

But under pressure, one’s Jenga can take a topple.

I once knew a man, John, whose life Jenga at one stage was a pile of psychotic pegs thrown about in an Inpatient Mental Health Unit.

He had been going well in life. Wife, kids, job, and supportive church life. Loved and respected by all. Sure there were times when he had some thoughts and ideas that seemed to be a bit out of the normal. His wife had some concerns, but then things got back to normal.

Then he lost his job. He got made redundant and found he wasn’t needed anymore. The fragile Jenga began to move.

It swung, swayed, and eventually crashed. He started to lose sleep. He walked and paced. His sentences didn’t seem to make sense, but he thought he was perfectly OK.

‘Nothing wrong with me,’ he said with grandiose gestures, but there was, and everyone could see it.

He was unwell.

It could happen to you.

We like to think we are invincible, that we can handle anything that comes our way. WRONG.

We are all particulates of clay. Our Jenga isn’t perfect, and everyone reacts to stress in different ways.

For some, when placed under a huge stress load, it might be high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, headaches. For others, it could be sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, and even psychotic breaks.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but we are also fragile in our clay.

Knowing your Jenga

If I was to sit down with you and a pile of Jenga pegs, what words about you would you write on each peg.

    • Job
    • Relationships
    • Finance
    • Faith
    • Family

Now, let’s break those categories down even further.

The pegs become

    • Work goals
    • Relationship with boss
    • The stress of getting to work
    • Worry about a daughter and her boyfriend
    • Payment of power bill

and many other pegs.

As you see, the tower grows higher and higher and increasingly fragile. For the most part, you have it all together. Life is good, it’s manageable. But then a knock, a wind, a brush with someone else’s fragile Jenga, and you begin to wobble.

A severe enough shake, such as the death of a loved one or a loss of a job, and the tower can shake violently and even crash.

It’s then that the tower, with the help of others, has to be rebuilt. We pick up the pieces, examine them, and craft them into the new rebuild.

It’s an ‘And next to them’ project.

Nehemiah and the Jenga builders

‘Nehemiah and the Jenga Builders’ sounds like an 80’s rock band, doesn’t it, but they are more a recovery group.

In my book ‘Broken to built,’ I share devotionals about how an entire city rebuilt their Jenga walls. It’s the story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

Next to them Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house; and next to him Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs. Nehemiah 3:9,10

It was a Jenga wall recovery movement of thousands of ‘Next to them’ relationships.

Who are you ‘next to.’

Every one of us is standing next to someone’s Jenga and they next to ours.

Are we helping them to be secure? Are we working on knowing ourselves and our vulnerabilities to stress? Do we have good strategies in place for reaching out and getting help when it’s needed?

Our mental health is probably more fragile than we would like to admit to, so we need to build ‘and next to them’ relationships that foster resilience for when the storms come.

John, with the help of others, recovered and rebuilt his Jenga. He now had a more honest and grounded reality in his life. He understood his vulnerabilities and accepted them. His faith was less ‘Woo woo’ and more earthy and honest. He had to review many of his beliefs about God and faith. As he did, he began to become more balanced, stable, and secure.

 

Mental Health is ... knowing your Jenga and the Jenga of others. How can you build a strong structure?CLICK TO TWEET

We think our lives have a strength to them, but remove a few Jenga pegs, experience a shock, and we can easily topple to the stress. So we build with each other and find new resilience.

Quotes to consider
  • Assumptions are what make the world go round, but they can also create hell-on-earth until they are exposed and carefully examined. D. Riddell
  • Strength is not the absence of vulnerability. Strength is knowing what your weaknesses are and working with them. Terrence Real
  • The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others. Erik Erikson
Questions to answer
  1. What are various Jenga pegs in your life?
  2. Where are you vulnerable?
  3. Some structures need to be broken down in order to be rebuilt. Think of an example where this has happened for you?
Further reading

A Particulate of Clay takes on COVID-19

Apr 29, 2020
I’m Never Going to Trust my Heart to You Because …
10:59

We open the heart and then find our trust is broken, but trust is fragile at the best of times, so we are wisely careful with the gift.

It’s those secret little internal vows we make that can cause so much damage.

As I wrote some words upon a whiteboard, I could see her affirm what I was writing. ‘I’m never going to trust again’.

She had opened her heart to someone, and it had got broken badly. She had trusted someone, shared the deep stuff, and now that part of her was locked in a coffin of her own making and was nailed down tight. A vow had been made.

The thing is that this exposure wasn’t the first time.

Many times as a child, she had reached out in vulnerability only to have her hands slapped. Every time this happened, she formed a belief that this world isn’t safe to venture one’s heart into. The vow was repeated.

There are secrets we all carry. Heart stuff that we don’t tell anyone, especially not those closest to us. There is too much at stake. We have a recurring question.

‘If you knew me, would you love me.’

An internal vow is made, and that vow is repeated over and over again by that small inner child within us.

We don’t go out to play because its easier and safer to stay inside, where it’s familiar and has controlled sterility to it. But locked rooms become stuffy. There’s no fresh air flowing in.

We want and need fresh air to flow into our hearts, but the vows keep the windows shut. We socially isolate ourselves in our self made bubbles.

We want to die, and the desire is granted. Something within dies because we were always meant to receive something of life from someone else.

Post Eden

In this post perfect world (Eden), we still have the lingering wafts of complete intimacy (in-to-me-see). We still have that desire and longing for love and to be known. But it’s no longer a world without weeds. Thorns jag us seemingly every time.

People use and abuse. They don’t know how to engage with something so fragile as a heart. Our subconscious gets triggered by ghostly echoes of a former time and place. It happens so quickly and powerfully that everything runs into it. We lock down and lock-in.

Trust is a fragile gift. We begin to trust someone, and so we open ourselves to being known. We feel held, and a sense of love begins to grow. A question forms around opening yourself further, sharing more of the deeper stuff?

To be held

‘I just want to be held’ were the heart-wrenching words they said.

Yes, on one level, they wanted a physical embrace, but more so, they were wanting to held at a heart level.

Not everyone knows how to hold. Not everyone is equipped. Most people don’t know what to do and how to respond to the naked exposure of another’s soul. They want to fix, problem solve, spiritualize, and slap band-aids on the pain.

Not many people know how to sit in Shiva anymore.

Shiva (Hebrew: שִׁבְעָה, literally “seven”) is the week-long mourning period in Judaism for first-degree relatives. Shiva embraces a time when individuals discuss their loss and accept the comfort of others. Wikipedia

We all have a loss in our lives. It may not be related to physical death, but it might be the loss of a dream, a relationship, a career, an innocence, an intimacy so desired.

To sit in Shiva doesn’t have to be about loss at all. It’s about listening for the dirt gathered under the toenails of living in an outcast world.

I’m never going to trust my heart to you because …

How would you answer that question? Why do you find trust difficult?

You’re not alone, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) holds a part of themselves within themselves where no one can see.

One of my favorite writers about inclusion is Miroslav Volv, who I think captures the spirit of Shiva in this passage.

‘An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other.

The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other.

They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me.

In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness.

I want them in their openness.

I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf. A spacious heart: essays on identity and belonging. (Trinity Press International, 1997, 58-59.)

How to find someone to trust

In grounded reality, you are probably not going to find someone perfect in trust. The best-case scenario is that you’re going to find a flawed image bearer that is honest with their trust issues.

Maybe as you become a Shiva trust bearer, you will find someone who can be that to you.

The one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. Galatians 6:7 The Message

I have found that when I sow tomatoes, I reap tomatoes. As I grow in my ability to be trustworthy to others, I find others who I sense that I can trust.

Trust is fragile at the best of times, so we are wisely careful with the gift.

 

Mental Health ... knowing who to trust and who not to. It takes time and wisdomCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • The most powerful thing we can do to help someone change is to offer them a rich taste of God’s incredible goodness. Larry Crabb
  • Learn to respond to others with honest, open questions instead of counsel or corrections. With such questions, we help “hear each other into deeper speech. Parker J. Palmer.
  • Handicapped people have a special gift to bring you closer to the heart of God. Their poverty reveals the heart. They teach me that human beings distinguish themselves from the rest of creation not so much by the mind as by the heart. The ability to give and receive love is what makes us human. Henri Nouwen – Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life
  • Only love can soften a hard heart. Only love can renew trust after it has been shattered. Only love can inspire acts of genuine self-sacrifice. Only love can free us from the tyrannizing effects of fear. David G. Benner
  • God is no stranger to the process of repairing damaged relationships. His trust has been broken many times by those he loves. John Townsend and Dr. Henry Cloud 
Questions to answer
  1. What makes a person trustworthy?
  2. What rebuilds trust after it has been broken?
  3. Answer the question, ‘I’m never going to trust my heart to you because …’
Further reading

Please. No Fixing, Advising, Saving or Straightening Out

Why I need to be Inadequate

Barry Pearman

Image cc: JJ Jordan

Apr 17, 2020
How to Build an Inner ‘Bulldog’ Resilience for your Mental Health
09:34

Storms of life can hit hard against our mental health, but we can learn to stand firm and even advance. Developing resilience is a practice of strengthing your inner Bulldog.

It was quite something as I watched this little goat headbutt a Bulldog. Repeatedly it launched itself at the Bulldog, but the dog stayed firm, resilient, and even advanced into the storm.

To me, it spoke of resilience in the face of adversity.

What is resilience?

Resilience is one of those buzzwords that is popular in Mental Health.

Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors” Wikipedia

For this post, it’s the ability to be a bulldog in the face of whatever stressor you are facing.

Recently I had a goat try and take me out. It was an old familiar shame pathway that I have been hit by many times, but I could see it and knew what to do.

I talked about the problem out and found my inner Bulldog strengthening its hind legs. I advanced, and the shame retreated.

Building the Bulldog
  1. Know yourself You’re not someone else. You are you! What is your reality? We are all uniquely and wonderfully made. Every one of us is different, and we all have our vulnerabilities.I take some medication for my depression.If I feel my depression is getting worse or that I am experiencing Early Warning Signs, then part of my Bulldog wisdom is to talk about my mental health with my Doctor.I hold no shame regarding my taking of medication. My body seems to need it, and that’s ok.
  2. Work out of your rest I believe many of us have an attitude about work and rest that is kind of mixed up. We see rest as the reward for work. ‘I’ve done enough, so now I can have a rest.’The day begins, for many, at sunrise, and sleep is what is needed to recover. I would like you to consider flipping this around.That the day begins at sunset when you go to sleep, and that you work out of your rest.That you have one day a week for solid Bulldog resting. On this day, you completely rest. You plan so that on that day you don’t even have to cook a meal. It’s called a Sabbath, and its what the Jews practice. A ceasing to restore and build resilience.
  3. Do what you can In our head butting world, you are going to come up against lots of experiences and challenges that you can’t do much about. I can’t solve other’s problems for them, and I don’t want to rescue people from experiences that they need to learn from. But there are somethings that I do have power over so in these I will act. Knowing what I can do and what I can’t empowers me to be able to act and to move forward.
  4. Insights book/ journal Something a counselor suggested for me to do to build my inner Bulldog was to have a small book in which I wrote by hand little self reminders and insights. In my little book, I have encouragements, reminders to tell myself.My mother had hers written on the front inner sleeve of her Bible. Here are some of mine. What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positives/ good things will always give me hope. The subconscious can be reprogrammed through cognitive assessments. A feeling of hopelessness, no matter how strong, is an echo and perception from the past and is not how things really are. 

     

    The point is to have this little book readily accessible for those much needed quick reminders of truth. What worked then will more than likely work again.

  5. Millimeter steps Notice that the Bulldog didn’t rush at the goat?Instead, he marched a few small steps ahead, stood his ground, and waited for the next attack. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your brain’s neural pathways weren’t either.Building resilience is a millimeter ministry of you creating and maintaining neural pathways that, over time, will become superhighway.New behaviors replace old, and they become so familiar that they are automatic.
  6. Dig in deep daily Create a time every day where you dig in deep to what fills your soul. It may be reading your Bible, listening to music, being still, meditating, pondering over poetry, or writing your heart into a journal.When you feed the inner Bulldog, it grows muscle for the next storm.
  7. Be a friend We need others, and they need us. We can listen to the storms they are facing and how their inner Bulldog is doing.I glean so much strength myself when I see others facing into there goats. It tells me that I can do it too.I praise their inner Bulldogishness.I say, ‘Go get hmm boy/girl.’Tails twitch, tongues hang out, and bellies are exposed for a playful scratch.

Storms of life can hit hard against our mental health, but we can learn to stand firm and even advance. Developing resilience is a practice of strengthing your inner Bulldog.

 

Mental Health is ... built by nurturing your inner bulldog resilience.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Margaret Thatcher
  • Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. Nelson Mandela
  • I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it. Maya Angelou
  • Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems. Gever Tulley
  • Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again. Nelson Mandela
Questions to answer
  1. What are the ‘little goats’ that keep trying to break you down?
  2. What does a ‘millimeter’ step forward look like for you in building resilience?
  3. How much does rest factor in your life and your resilience to tough times?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Sébastien LAVALAYE

Apr 13, 2020
A Particulate of Clay takes on COVID-19
09:35

At times we can seem so small and vulnerable like a speck of clay, but joined together, we can take on the challenges such as COVID 19. Let’s bind together for our Mental Health.

‘Particulate’ is an interesting word. It refers to a minute separate particle. In a cup of flour, the particulates would be every little particle of flour, different of itself but essential in the whole.

Back in the eighties, I studied Agriculture, and one of the classes I took was soil science. We studied rocks and minerals, silt, sand, and clay. Out of the soil come the very foundations of our existence. ‘Healthy soil = healthy food = healthy people’ was the 1942 mantra of J.I. Rodale

A particulate of clay

I learned that clay is quite different from sand and silt.

First of all, a particulate of clay, the smallest particle, is super tiny.

Relative-size-of-sand-silt-and-clay-particles

The second aspect of clay is its unique shape. It’s flat, like a dinner plate or a piece of paper.

Its size and shape give clay its strength. All those plate-like surfaces can sit on top of each other, create friction, and bind themselves together.

Whereas the ball-like shape of silt and sand means that they have less surface contact with each other. So they can roll and not bind. Water passes through the gaps, hence silty and sandy soils are regarded as free-draining soils.

Particulates of clay bind themselves together to form the coffee cup you’re holding, the foundations of a bridge you’re walking on, and the bricks surrounding your home.

Clay is powerful, yet it also tiny.

A pinch of clay

When I was a pastor, I was invited into many clay awareness moments.

A loved one had died, and people were brought to the reality of their mortality. That the body is fragile and a container. With words such as ‘dust to dust, ashes to ashes’ I accompanied people into an awareness of our grounded earthy existence.

There is a character in the Bible by the name of Job. His story is one of earthy mortality. He loses health, wealth, family. It was like a ‘cosmic courtroom drama’ (Mike Mason) being played out over his life.

In his clay, he speaks his existence and ours.

Behold, I am toward God as you are; I too was pinched off from a piece of clay.  Job 33:6

Mental health and clay

In talking with those who have come to an awareness of mental illness, the ones who make the most progress in their recovery are those who fully embrace fragility.

Not in a victim mode or a ‘Woah is me’ mindset, but in a healthy coming to terms with the truth.

They recognize that their bodies, the clay, can only take so much pressure/ stress and that eventually, the cup will break. The depression will swamp over; the psychosis will voice itself; the anxiety will shake its claw.

Those who recover and build resilience to future earthquakes are ones who embrace their earthiness. They know the limits of the body. They become aware of the need for sleep, exercise, nutrition.

Clay in the face of COVID

As I write this, the world is in the torment of a pandemic. COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the clay of our lives. It is no respecter of man.

From Kings and Queens, Presidents, and Prime Ministers to the homeless and elderly, it is on a death march.

People are becoming aware that they are vulnerable to something they can’t see, feel, and touch. That something so small  (smallest particles are 0.06 microns, and the largest are 0.14 microns) can destroy us all.

That we are not gods, we have limited power, and we are vulnerable.

However, there is something we can do, and it’s found in the shape of clay.

Bind us together

That plate-like structure of a particulate of clay gives us the ability to be strong.

The power of clay is that unified it is strong. Sand and silt are like freewheeling rolling balls of individuality. Clay binds together.

We face a common enemy, and a common enemy needs a common approach.

So we all self-isolate. We stay in our isolation bubbles, wash our hands, and we pray that the God of clay who, with incarnational presence, got dirt in toenails, will help us all.

We may not be able to have our usual face to face, clay to clay conversations, but we can still connect online, on the phone, or singing from the balcony. There is a common humanity we need to share in.

On the curbside

Yesterday I took our rubbish up to the curb to be collected. A mother and her daughter were walking past on the other side of the road. The road was very quiet because of the lockdown.

I greeted them with a cheery and happy hello.

They responded with equal friendliness. Then they asked me if I was living alone. I was puzzled by this response but told them that there were four others living in my bubble with me.

Then I realized that they thought that I was being super friendly because I hadn’t seen anyone for some time. Lonely people, I have found, often talk a lot when given the opportunity.

I then explained that I like to be friendly, and it’s not every day these days that you can have a chat with a total stranger. We had a brief conversation, and then they continued in their walk.

That is what clay particulate joining with clay particulate looks like. Its a conversation across the balconies, an encouraging word to stay healthy, a video chat with a friend across the other side of the world.

Whatever you can safely do to connect with the clay of another will help.

 

Mental health is ... coming to terms with our clay and the clay of others.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The race of mankind would perish did they cease to aid each other. We cannot exist without mutual help. Walter Scott
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another:” What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis
Questions to answer
  1. How vulnerable are you feeling at the moment as a particulate of clay?
  2. How can you bind with another particulate of clay?
  3. What would it be like to reach out to a total stranger in your isolated neighborhood today?
Further reading

and next to them

What the World needs now is Courage and Compassion

Love heals. Indifference Kills. What do you most need?

Would you Know my TRUE Name

 

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Austin Ban

Apr 01, 2020
What the World needs now is Courage and Compassion
08:12

It’s an isolated world, well, sort of, but it’s one that needs courage and compassion if we are going to create connection.

Today as I write this, is it our first day of mandatory nationwide lockdown in New Zealand due to the spread of the Corona Virus. People have been told to stay at home. There is an eerie quietness to where we live. The motorway a few kilometers provides no hum.

Two words keep coming to my thinking: courage and compassion.

Courage

I think of all those who hold positions of authority in our world. The courageous decisions they have had to take. Closing borders, shutting down economies, enforcing lockdowns. Some of the leadership decisions were not made in time; some decisions were made well.

There is also the courage required in you and me in our everyday lives. We face the issue, and we do the right thing. We do the best we can.

The word courage has its roots in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart.”

People all over the world may well be losing heart at the moment, losing their sense of courage. Seeing the overwhelming horror of this pandemic can cause a degradation of the soul—a whittling away of our life.

Courage is needed by all to reach out to our neighbor and say you’re not alone.

Compassion

We’re not going to get everything right. Somethings we do in this world war will be successful others will fail. Will we be compassionate towards the leaders who will get it wrong?

Will you be compassionate towards yourself in this time of crisis.

Self-compassion absorbs the failures and forgives the self. It says you’re doing ok and that you’re loved.

Compassion is the venue where we can sit with each other and say you’re not alone.

Social isolation in a time of loneliness

About eight years ago, I used to do door-to-surveying for a research company. I was given a specific neighborhood and told to survey every third house.

There were also many other rules to my surveying to make sure I got a very accurate representation of the people living in the neighborhood. The one thing that surprised me the most was the number of people living by themselves.

In the latest census, New Zealand has  405,000 people living by themselves.

Now add in the fact that due to the pandemic, you can’t have your regular social activities where you can mix and mingle, and you’re heading towards more anxiety and depression.

We need each other for good mental health. We were never meant to be alone. We may get through this through physical isolation, but we will be poorer and sicker if we don’t have a social connection.

Connection needs courage and compassion

In my gardening business, I work for many people who live by themselves. Age, illness, disability all in some way contribute to their need for someone to come and prune, weed, and tidy.

So I am going to keep in connection with them. I have compassion for their potential social isolation and the courage they will need to face into this. I’m going to ring them and have a chat.

Who in your social network needs you to connect with them?

It could be a phone call, an email, a meeting over the internet. I recently sent out an offer (totally free) to all my email subscribers to have a chat or video call with me on the internet. If you want to chat, email me. barry@turningthepage.info

It’s been so good to meet many of them for the first time. For me to get to know them and their situation. They learn a bit more about me too!

Here’s the challenge

Who, in your life, needs your connection? It might be the stranger, the neighbor, the friend, and even the enemy.

Remember, you’re not there to necessarily solve their problems. What most people want is to know someone is there for them.

Quotes to consider
  • Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. Mary Daly
  • It takes courage to respond to the invitation to share one’s self with another person. David G. Benner
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ”What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis 
  • Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people it’s the sense that you’re not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. Johann Hari  
  • To end loneliness, you need other people—plus something else. You also need to feel you are sharing something with the other person, or the group, that is meaningful to both of you. You have to be in it together—and “it” can be anything that you both think has meaning and value. Johann Hari
  • Compassion for yourself is where you start when things are tough, not where you stop. Rick Hanson
  • Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out.  Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
Questions to answer
  1. What can we do in this time of social isolation to enable a safe social connection?
  2. Who are you being prompted to get in touch with?
  3. How are you compassionate to yourself in these stressful times?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Toa Heftiba

 
Apr 01, 2020
Doing Your Best to Live at Peace with Everyone
08:09

Some people can be difficult to live at peace with. To live peaceably and in harmony requires each person to do the work on themselves.

Some people are like bottomless holes. You give and give, and they take and take.  They raise a storm, and you’re expected to bring peace.

Instead of taking self-responsibility, they blame and shame. They make others a scapegoat for their failings.

I know of someone who would do everything they could to try and please their angry husband, but nothing seemed to satisfy. It was an endless giving out. 

Eventually, she realized that nothing she did would bring perfect peace and harmony. That he was responsible for his own life and the war raging within himself. 

Live at peace

So often we think we need to serve others to the point of sacrifice. That it’s our job to fix other’s problems. That we are to ‘turn the other cheek,’ ‘go the extra mile,’ and give them the shirt of our back

Living at peace with some people is near impossible because some people are difficult and they are not at peace within themselves.

Whatever you do, it won’t be enough.

For harmony to exist, all parties need to be in tune. 

Tuning the guitar

Once I was playing my guitar with a group of others, and someone said to me, ‘I think you’re out of tune.’

I played a chord, and sure enough, one of my strings was not in perfect pitch. It was out of tune. That single string was destroying the beauty of the music.

I quickly tuned the string and got back to the music.

If you’re an experienced musician, you can quickly tell if someone is out of tune.

All the other strings may be at the right pitch, but if one string is not at the correct tension, at the perfect pitch, then it will ruin the music. There will be no beautiful music. No harmony.

If guitar strings were people, they might well say to that out of tune string ‘You’re out of tune, and you need to do something about it.’

You cant tune yourself, but in submission, to God, the strings can be tightened or loosened. Once it is in perfect pitch, then beautiful harmonious music can be played and enjoyed by all.

As far as it depends on you

Paul, in Romans 12, writes these words.

If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18

You can only do so much to live peaceably with others. They need to do their bit too. They need to be willing to be tuned by God.

You may love them deeply and want to make their life better, but their life is their responsibility.

You can only do so much. You can’t meet their every need.

It may not even be possible to live peaceably with some. Paul points to this when he says, ‘If it is possible.’ Some people are going to remain ‘out of tune.’

Living with ‘out of tune’ people
  1. Keep in-tune yourself Recognize that you also are out of tune in some way much of the time, so you need to submit your life routinely to God for tuning. By doing so, you are leading by example.
  2. Find a corner of a rooftop At times that difficult person can wear down on you, like a dripping tap, so much so that you need a physical place of relief. Proverbs tells us that it is ‘Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.’ Proverbs 21:9Find a place where you can recover and pray.
  3. Don’t rescue There are natural consequences for bad behavior. What you sow you reap. Don’t rescue people from the mess they have created. If you rescue them, how will they learn?
  4. Serenity prayer Pray the serenity prayer regularly.God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  5. Boundaries Grow in internal strength where you can express your boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. Learn about the lines of love and respect.
  6. Detach and let them go There are times we need to let the difficult person go. Much like the father did with his difficult prodigal son, he let him follow his folly.
  7. Leave the miracles up to God God is in hot pursuit of your difficult person. The beautiful poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’ speaks to this loving pursuit.You can only do what you can do, leave the miracles up to God.

We all have difficult people in our lives, but with prayer, patience, and staying in the zone of what we can do, we can find a way through.

 

Mental Health is ... learning what is your control and what is notCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart. St. Francis of Assisi
  • Surrendering the outcomes is making peace with our lack of control over how people respond to us and our work. Rob Bell
  • Acceptance doesn’t mean complacency or giving up. We can accept something while at the same time trying to make it better. Rick Hanson
  • There is no intimacy without honesty. Genuine love does not want ‘peace at any price,’ but will ‘rock the boat’ when honesty is being compromised. D. Riddell
  • We get in trouble whenever we forget that God never gave us the power or the right to change anyone.  That is His job! Michael Liimatta
Questions to answer
  1. Who are you trying to live at peace with?
  2. Where does responsibility for the other start and end?
  3. How do you keep yourself in tune?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Roberta Sorge    Uriel Soberanes

Mar 19, 2020
Love heals. Indifference Kills. What do you most need?
14:30

What your neighbor needs now is love but they often encounter indifference. We need to find a way to listen to them and tell them they are loved.

I wonder at times that under depression and anxiety, there is a deep unmet need for love. That many are love-starved and are unaware of it.

There are a lot of lonely people; maybe you’re one of them. I want to tell you that you are loved, but ‘Love’, I believe, is the most dangerous word in the world.

When heard, it can be twisted into all sorts of meanings and intentions that were never meant. Romanticized, sexualized, it can take on a life of its own.

I love my wife, my family, and my friends. Sounds right and proper, but what about saying ‘You are loved’ to someone who is struggling with depression or anxiety. Someone is psychotic?

Would they hear it within the intention that you are seeking to speak from?

Everyone needs to know they are loved.

You are loved because

Why are you loved?

That’s quite a profound question, and for many people, they may dispute that they are loved at all.

They have tied love into being the result of a performance.

When they do these certain activities or behaviors, then they will be loved. If they look a certain way, say the right words, cook the perfect meal, earn a certain amount of money, then they will be loved. If they follow the rules then they will experience love.

They put the power of hoped-for love into other’s hands. Always risky and fraught with potential manipulation and servitude.

You are loved because you are you.

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. Dr. Seuss

I’m not indifferent to you

What would be the perfect behavior of love? How would you know 100% that you are loved?

I think it would be that you feel that you have been genuinely listened to. That you are acknowledged and known.  That the lover, the one who is listening, has not been indifferent in any way to your heart.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Elie Wiesel

Indifference kills relationship.

It’s those words of ‘whatever’, ‘I don’t care’, ‘tell that to someone who cares’, ‘can’t be bothered’ that will shoot the already wounded.

The greatest lover of all time, Jesus, was never indifferent to the needs of those whom others were indifferent to.

He stepped into the world of shame and failure and had love feasts with the outcasts. Those on the sideline and not in the game. Those discarded and invalidated by others.

As I write this, I keep thinking of a picture by David Hayward and the story it comes from.

It comes from the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. John 8:1-11  She was about to be stoned for supposed crimes. Can you imagine the terror and anxiety flooding her?

Love reached out and saturated her life.

Taping into love

For every broken hurting person, I would like them to hear and know that they are loved.

I wonder what would happen if when we exchanged words of farewell such as ‘Bye,’ we instead said the words ‘You are loved’.

Perhaps it would cause people to think about the vast reservoir of love that is contained around them at all times.

This week as I write, it has been one year since the tragic killings in Christchurch. A man stormed into two Christchurch mosques and with a semi automatic rifle slaughtered men, women, and children.

Were we indifferent to the pain?

No, love flooded and burst out all around this broken community. Love conquered hate. Indifference never got a look in.

Around every one of us, and especially around you, is a vast untameable lake of love, and it needs to be taped into.

The Bible may tell us so

As a child, I learned that I was loved by Jesus because ‘The Bible tells me so’.

That’s a left-brained, logic-based, cold fish approach to knowing something.

I want to know that love with the depth of experiential awareness.

Full emotional awareness like being held and embraced in the depth of a storm. Having a waterfall of powerful flowing love washing and pounding against me.

I can’t experience that love without you, and you can’t experience it without me.

There has to be a crossing over the divide of rugged independence and self-reliance to the truth of interdependence.

Listening for love in all the right places

Why does it have to take a funeral before people come and express their gratitude and love for someone?

Does it have to be mass murder before the community says we love?

I want to know I am loved and have worth beyond my role, my functionality, and strength or beauty. Can you tell me I am loved?

Someone you are going to meet today needs to hear that they are loved. Don’t be indifferent to Spirit (Holy) when the prompt comes.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. C.S. Lewis

I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

  Mental Health is ... knowing you are loved and making sure others know they are loved tooCLICK TO TWEET Quotes to consider
  • The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. To be in the window and watch people being sent to concentration camps or being attacked in the street and do nothing, that’s being dead. Elie Wiesel
  • Some people care too much. I think it’s called love. A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
  • Where there is great love there is always miracles. Willa Cather
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  • He [Jesus] can only reach as far as you and I are willing to go.  Anna Dimmel – I went to a Strip Club
    • There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ. Pascal
    Questions to consider
  1. What do you think would happen if we regularly told others ‘You are loved’?
  2. In your community, who needs to hear that they are loved?
  3. How much does isolation and unawareness of love play into a person’s depression or anxiety?
Further reading

Your Failures in Life Need Love

God’s Love can Heal a Heart Full of Anxiety

To the Power of Being Known

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Gage Walker

Mar 12, 2020
When the Confessor Goes Rogue
14:49

We need to share the pain of life with someone, but what happens when the confessor, the one we are exposing our heart to, goes rogue. We need to be careful with who we share our heart with.

What they thought was being said in private was now being passed around like appetizers at a dinner party. Everyone had a munch and nibble, then passed the plate on for another’s perusal.

They were locked down now. Having exposed their heart, they had got hurt and had made a vow never to be open again.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

But something had died within them. It was a willingness to trust and, therefore, to know love and give love. They allowed others to come only as close as they felt safe. Functionality, not intimacy.

All because the person they confided with couldn’t hold their pain,  confusion, and mystery. The confessor may have had the occupation where confidentiality was paramount, but they weren’t the person to hold or contain others.

Some observations from a hurt healer.

1. Being a Confessor  is not everyone’s calling  

We want everyone to be safe containers, ones that don’t leak, but in reality, not everyone is equipped to cope. I think it’s a calling, a specialty known to only a few.

Some aspects of being safe for others can be learned, but for the most, I believe its a gift, even a spiritual gift given by God and enabled and sustained by Spirit (Holy).

I think I have it because it seems that people seem to open up to me. They download, and it doesn’t seem to stick emotionally to me. The things I have heard would possibly scar and traumatize others.

I am always amazed and grateful for counselors, therapists, pastors, and others who have been equipped to know how to contain others’ pain. To let others vomit out their heart and know what to do with it themselves.

If you’re in a role, such as a pastor, and you can’t cope with the vomit, then please find someone who can. It’s not everyone’s calling to hear the deep pain. Learn how to politely and gently support to the degree that you can,

2. Everyone needs a safe confessor

When the pain gets locked up in the soul, it doesn’t make good wine. It makes vinegar. Acid and acrid, the pain eats away at life. Love is lost, and in that ‘airless coffin,’ the soul will suffocate itself.

There are pains we need to ‘get off our chest.’ Interesting little saying, isn’t it. To ‘get something off your chest.’ The chest holds the heart and the lungs. The organs that feed and sustain the flow of life in the body. When we have unshared pain, it can feel like a weight pressing down and constricting our ability to breathe and beat.

I am not sure who said it. It may have been Martin Luther, but I once heard that he said that the greatest loss from the reformation was the loss of the confessional box.

I’m not saying that having a confessional box in the way Roman Catholicism does is ideal, but to have normality to the act of safe confession may allow many of us to breathe easier and live lighter.

3. Forgiving the foolishness

I’ve shared with people some of my hurt and then felt betrayed by them. What was shared in private was told to others.

Then there are those that when we share something deep, it’s treated with disdain and mocking. They may minimize it and scoff.

Problem-solving is another tactic people use. ‘Let me tell you what to do’ when all you want is to be known.

Its foolishness and requires forgiveness. They don’t know what they are doing, and if they do know what they are doing and there is a sense of malicious intent to their actions, then double foolishness is going on.

I am continually brought back to what a wise old confessor told me to do. ‘Lay it at the foot of the cross’.

On the cross, Jesus doesn’t ask for vengeance. He asks for them to be forgiven in their foolishness. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

It seems like I have a well-worn path to that place. Whenever I feel the bile of hurt rise up, I ask for help to find my way there.

4. Not repeating the same mistake

It’s foolish to keep exposing your heart to unsafe people with the hope of getting a different response.

Yes, I know, in an ideal world others would be able to hear our heart and not go rogue with it, but it’s been a long time since we’ve left the garden (Garden of Eden). That place where nakedness was the norm and love flowed with unconstrained abandonment.

So we are careful with who we share both our darkness and our light with. Not everyone is safe, and not everyone is good. Everyone has an element of foolishness in them.

We test the waters. We watch and observe. There is a prayer for direction to the safe burden bearers. Negotiations take place, and we ask questions.

Trust is built up over time and through shaky experiences, and maybe, just maybe we find a safe confessor.

 

Mental Health is ... finding a safe person to be vulnerable to, and being that safe person to someone else.CLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Just because you forgive someone does not mean you must trust them – that has to be earned back again. David Riddell
  • Forgiveness is a choice. You choose not to be held hostage in the present to the injustices that occurred in the past. Shirley Glass
  • A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
  • Opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked.  Rob Bell
  • Forgiving is not a single event, but a gradual process of increasing compassion and reducing resentment. Shirley Glass
Questions to answer
  1. What would be the top qualities of a safe confessor?
  2. When have you truly felt listened to in a deeply safe context?
  3. Why is it that some people are good containers and others are not?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Clem Onojeghuo

Mar 04, 2020
Your Brain Needs to Rest Beside Still Waters
10:11

Our brains can be so busy that it can feel like a concussion, but we can help the brain recover by finding some still waters to rest next by.

When I wrote the first draft of this post, I was sitting next to a small stream. There wasn’t much water flowing through it because it is summer and we haven’t had a good rainfall for over 60 days.

But still, the trickle provided life to many. There were some Kokopu (a native New Zealand fish), some birds that would refresh and wash, insects sipping, and tree roots merging with the waters. The water was also being pumped out to beautiful gardens and orchards. Water troughs were being kept full for thirsty horses.

Now I was being replenished. I invited my self to be still and listen for the stillness of the flowing waters. Something outside of my control.

However, just 20 meters away from this little stream was a busy road. There were moments that all I could hear were cars and trucks carrying people to their day’s work, school, and busyness. Then quiet would return, and the sound of still waters would flow to my ears.

We need still waters

Do you have a place where you can listen to water?

Perhaps its a stream, or the lapping of waves on a beach. It could be a water fountain in a garden. I have seen a small water fountain in a waiting room and thought how relaxing it was to watch the movement and listen to the flow.

In Psalm 23 David the shepherd writes

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.     He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;     he restores my soul. Psalm 23: 1-3

David didn’t write ‘still water.’ ‘Still water’ can be dangerous water. A place where weed, algae, and all sorts of nasties can grow. A good shepherd would not allow his flock to drink from stagnant water.

David uses the word ‘waters’ implying a movement of molecules of water. There is a flow, even if it is unseen. Under the surface, there is a current. When it comes to an obstacle, it moves around and over.

The water flows over little rocks and pebbles and creates sound waves that reach out for ears to hear. There is a rhythm, a wave vibration, an unpredictability to the music.

Concussion recovery

Our brain is both strong and fragile. In sports such as Soccer/ Football, Grid Iron, Rugby, even my beloved Cricket, blows to the head can cause long term damage to the brain.

Then some suffer concussion through knocks and bumps. A fall, a car crash, a walking into a piece of timber on the back of a truck, which is what I did yesterday. Ouch and bruise and pain.

What about the concussion injuries on your soul and heart that you have experienced throughout your life?

I was reading an article the other day about concussion recovery. It gave five pieces of advice on how to rest your brain

1. Take time off work and/or school. 2. Focus on one task at a time. 3. Limit yourself to easy chores. 4. Get in the passenger’s seat. (No driving) 5. Relax with comfortable, simple hobbies.

They were encouraging the reader to avoid activities that required demanding mental processes, such as reaction time, memory, or multitasking. It was an invitation to sit by still waters.

Accessing the waters

I want to have more refreshing moments in my life where I can recover from the concussing effects of cell phone notifications, political debates, and being on the road above the stream.

I want to sit with the water of life.

Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! Jesus John 7:37-39

Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life. John 4:14

To get to that stream, I had to climb a fence, push through some trees, and find a patch in time to sit. There was intentionality in seeking the water.

What can you do?

I don’t know where you live. You might live in a place where accessing free-flowing water is quite easily achievable.

Perhaps you live in a place where it is dry and arid and flowing water is challenging to find. You might like to listen to stream from an App on your phone or get a small water fountain for your home.

I would encourage you to pursue listening to the still waters and allow them to flow around the circuity of your brain. You won’t be short-circuited.

 

Mental health is ... finding time to sit and rest by the still watersCLICK TO TWEET

Quotes to consider
  • Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
  • In the inner stillness where meditation leads, the Spirit secretly anoints the soul and heals our deepest wounds. John of the Cross
  • The brain takes its shape from what the mind rests upon. Rick Hanson
Questions to consider
  1. Where are some ‘still waters’ nearby that you could go and be still?
  2. What is the resistance you are facing when you think about the idea of being quiet and listening to the trickle of water?
  3. What is the noisy traffic in your life that maybe concussing you?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Oscar Nilsson

Feb 26, 2020
Seven Observations of Long Haul Caregivers
11:28

Being a caregiver over a long period of time can be tough going, but there are some things that those on the long haul do well. We need to applaud the long haul caregiver.

There are some people that I want to stand and applaud.

I love the game of cricket and when a player has done exceptionally well the crowd will rise one by one and cheer their performance.

Kane Williamson 17 Test Centuries

The player may raise his bat in acknowledgment, but there is no theatrics of tearing off his shirt, doing cartwheels or any other self-aggrandizement.

After the applause, he takes his bat and faces the next ball.

Some of the people who read this blog are those that need a slow and deliberate clap of applause.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

They are the ones who have been on the long haul mission of caring for someone. It could be a spouse, parent, child, family member, a friend.

There may be a disability, an addiction, an illness. But over a long period of time have stuck close and carried at times a load that nobody ever sees.

It can be tough, unthankful work—a place of giving up sacrificially some of their dreams and desires for the sake of another.

Perhaps you know someone like this. It may even be you. What observations have you made? Email me with your comments.

Seven observations of long haul caregivers
  1. They have relationships with a few supportive others We can’t do life on our own. Long haul people have someone who they can connect with. It could be a group of other people who know what they are going through.A group such as Al-Anon for those supporting someone with an addiction to alcohol. It might be a group you find on Facebook.It will be someone somewhere where they won’t feel alone.Where they can both vent their frustrations and vacuum up encouragement and hope.

     

    God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6

  2. They make a life for themselves Long haul people have discovered that they need to have something they can call their own. It could be a hobby, enjoyment of music, a favorite author.It will be a place where they can go to that offers some relief, a ‘stepping away’ from the coal face of support.
  3. They know what is in their control and what is not Life will throw many challenges at the Long haul caregiver.People will make decisions that a caregiver has no control over.There is a ‘stepping aside’ from the emotional turmoil others can cause and a recognition many things are beyond one’s control.They focus on what they can control – themselves and how they will respond.
  4. They have lines of love and respect (boundaries) Long haul caregivers have come to know themselves well and know what is acceptable behavior and what is not.There is an ability to point out the consequences when a line is crossed and enforce it.They know that no one is perfect, but that expectations need to be negotiated with others.There is an ability to care for themselves by making clear the lines of love and respect.
  5. They recognize there is a bigger story going on The life of a Long Haul caregiver can become so drawn into itself that it feels like the suction of a black hole.The needs of the other cavitate you into losing sight of something good and glorious. God delights in the service of others.There is a bigger story going on, and we, for the most part, are unaware of it.The invite is to perform to the best of your ability (not others) in this unfolding story.
  6. They do the inner work Bitter or better.Long haul caregivers seem to fall somewhere on a spectrum of being bitter or better. The bitterness of having to do this, people not doing what they want, agencies are failing them, lost dreams, and hopes.The list can, and generally does, go on and on.Then some seem to have become better through the experience. Sure they recognize injustices and hurts, but they seem to have invited and allowed the struggle to do some inner work on themselves.

     

    This is a place where you learn about yourself.

    Much like how a pearl is grown within an oyster.

    ‘An irritating substance (like a piece of grit) enters the oyster, prompting the animal to start protecting itself. It does so by secreting a lustrous organic material known as nacre to encapsulate the irritant. Once the irritant has been covered with enough layers of nacre, it’s like the irritant never existed. In that nuisance’s place, a precious organic gem forms’.Source

  7. They have a compelling vision We can so often get stuck in the difficulty of the day that we lose sight of the millimeter ministry, and that little things add up over time.At times I have written a letter for a person where I have asked Spirit to prompt me with words that might describe the person in a few years.It’s not a ‘you will have a husband, a dream house, etc.’ but more so character qualities.When we can hold onto a vision of what could be possible and focus on the millimeter, even micrometer steps of change, then a vision can and does become a reality.
Grit and grace

Going the distance is a ministry of grit and grace, and I stand and applaud you. 

If you know someone who is a long haul caregiver, buy them a coffee, send them a card. In someway acknowledge them and what they are doing. 

Quotes to consider
  • Be there for others but never leave yourself behind Dodinsky
  • We get in trouble whenever we forget that God never gave us the power or the right to change anyone.  That is His job! Michael Liimatta 
  • Do for One What You Wish You Could Do for Everyone Andy Stanley
Questions to answer
  1. What observations have you made about those caring for others over a long period?
  2. Who do you know that could be considered as a long haul caregiver?
  3. In what ways can we say ‘Well done good and faithful servant’?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Paz Arando

Feb 19, 2020
No more plans. Give me a foggy signpost
09:15

Plans and blueprints give us a sense of certainty, but it’s in the fog of relationships we need something more. Signposts offer us a direction, a relationship of trust, an ancient path.

I wanted him to tell me what to do. Give me advice, a plan, a blueprint, a map back to where I once was. I needed help, and I felt utterly lost.

‘I can’t give you a map, but I can give you some foggy signposts’

We all want maps, and plans don’t we. Codes and blueprints that if we follow, we will succeed. For most of life, this is how it works.

Yesterday I had a drive belt on a machine break. I pulled out the belt, went and got a replacement then put the new belt on. The machine is back working, and it felt good. I moved into the chaos and solved the problem.

I will have other problems of chaos again today. I will dig into my brains toolbox, reach for a plan, and solve the problem.

But there are areas of my life, and yours, where there are no clear plans or blueprints. We search for a map and a code but come up short.

The relationships we have with others are probably the most significant area of stress we have. How many times do a few words spoken sink us into depression, push our anxiety buttons, or fire up the coals of our anger?

So we write internal policy manuals. ‘If they do this, then I’ll do that.’ Rule books, manuals, maps, and plans all constrain the traveling relationship to mere functionality.

A foggy signpost

A few years ago, my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain. This pilgrimage journey is one that millions of people have taken, but there is no map. Well, there is actually, or there could be if you wanted to find one, but instead, there are road markers with arrows.

As you walk along the well-worn path, you will come across small stone markers with an arrow and the information of how far it is to go.

If you look at the top of the signpost, you will see a blue panel with yellow lines, all pointing to one spot. The Camino has a scallop shell as a symbol of direction. All the radial points line up to one endpoint: many paths, one destination.

You will find ancient signposts on the Camino being nothing but a scallop shell chiseled into stone.

 

Mental Health is knowing when the map needs to be put down, and a wholehearted seeking of ancient foggy signposts needs to be embraced.CLICK TO TWEET

The Ancient Paths

The Camino de Santiago is an ancient path, but there are even more ancient paths that people like you and I have walked.

Whatever you are going through in your relationships, thousands of others have been through it before.

Jeremiah, born 650 years before Christ, knew of the ancient paths. They were old even then.

Stand at the crossroads, and look,     and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it,     and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Have you ever wept? Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. No superhero status here, but he was one that sought out the foggy signposts on the ancient paths.

Developing intimate trust

It was when they said, ‘I believe in you’ and ‘I’m going to walk with you through this’ that I knew that I had found someone under a foggy signpost.

They had been there done that. They had the scars to prove they had been through the battle I was going through, and so they could be trusted.

No trite answers were given, no formulas or maps laid out. It was a sense of presence that invited me to know that I was safe and welcomed. It was intimacy – in-to-me-see.

When we grow in relationship with others who have found and want to share their foggy signposts, we form a community of fellow pilgrims. Honest and ‘dirt between the toes’ wanderers.

A trust grows not in a plan but a presence that it’s going to be ok. You’re not alone. You have fellow travelers who have found the signpost you are looking for.

You begin to drop the plans, blueprints, codes, and loyalty programs. Confidence fills your heart, and you take that one more step into the fog.

The well of Jeremiah’s tears is known to you, and you’re able to provide a sense of presence to fellow Jeremiahs.

Quotes to consider
  • Genuine presence involves being genuinely myself. I can be present for another person only when I dare to be present to myself. Dr. David Benner
  • Spiritual growth begins with the easily overlooked disciplines of attentiveness and surrender. David Benner
  • We live in the shelter of each other. Celtic saying
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
Questions to consider
  1. What foggy signposts have helped you?
  2. Where is the invite today for you to seek out a foggy signpost?
  3. Maps and plans are helpful in many areas of life, but what happens when we try and apply them to our relationships?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Dipan Kumar Rout

Feb 12, 2020
When a Thought Takes You Captive
09:17

A thought can become a belief that keeps us captive. But we can have an idea that captures us and inspires growth. We need to nurture the good and true.

‘It’s a weasel.’ The trap had caught and killed a weasel. We had noticed that some animal was eating some of the eggs in the chicken coop, so we had set out a trap. Now the culprit was caught and dead.

Weasels and other animals like possums, rats, ferrets, and stoats cause a great deal of damage to our natural wildlife here in New Zealand. Before man coming to our Islands, there were only birds. It was just one happy, chirping bird-filled land.

But with the introduction of animals such as possums, weasels, and alike it has been a war against the wild. We love our native birds and forests, and so we work hard at protecting them.

Weasel thoughts

In my thought life, I have some thoughts that are like weasels. They are repetitive, destructive, and so familiar that I don’t even realize that I’m thinking them.

I can guarantee you have them or ones similar.

  • ‘Nothing ever changes.’
  • ‘I’m dumb.’
  • ‘I’m ugly.’
  • ‘I’m not good at anything.’

Their weasels and they’re eating away the real beauty and power of your life. A little thought here and there, keeping you in the familiar territory where you have always thought that thought.

That thought repeated over time, mixed with emotion, becomes your truth. Its the way you see the world. Some people believe the world is flat. They feed the notion. It dominates their thinking.

It has captured them, and it has become their truth.

Taking every thought captive

I want to get a trap that can catch weasel thoughts. You have it connected into the garden of your brain, and every rodent thought that passes through the neuron network are trapped.

Snared before it continues to do damage.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5  that we are to ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ.’

We are to grasp every thought.

Imagine yourself grasping a wriggling thought in your hand. You have it in your grip. You have caught it, and you examine it. Is this critter helpful or harmful?

It needs to be obedient, to be under submission, and not allowed to roam free and wild in your life, destroying your beauty and purpose.

Captured by a thought

Let’s flip this around. How about a thought that has captured you? Being captive to an idea.

I’ve had an idea recently that has captured my thinking. It started as an idea, just a little inkling. Then I kept feeding it and coming back to get to it. Holding it in my hands and pondering over it.

It’s about this blog, and the people it reaches, how it’s a precious thing. It’s a community, and I so enjoy how it helps so many people.

It’s an idea I want to foster, nourish, and see where it leads.

Back to our illustration about the problem we have here in New Zealand about weasels, rats, and possums.

Someone at some stage had an idea about creating pest-free zones. Small offshore Islands were made predator-free. Rare and endangered species of birds were given a home to flourish in.

Then that thought of predator-free areas gained momentum, and more people caught the dream. They were captured by the idea of things being different. Thousands of people are now involved in making New Zealand predator-free. We have a goal of New Zealand being predator-free by 2050. 

I don’t know whether we will ever become predator-free, but every step towards it is a good one.

What thought has captured you? 

For many struggling with a Mental Illness, there is an element of being captured by a thought of despair. That tomorrow will be the same as yesterday. That there is no hope.

Repeated time and time again through the neural networks, it can become so hardwired that it becomes like a flat earth belief system. It is your truth and all you know. It is how you see the world.

A new thought needs to take capture of you.

What anyone of us can do is to invite a good, holy thought of divine inspiration to trickle into our subconscious. We can then nourish and feed that thought. Dwell in it and let it capture us much like a beautiful sunrise or the early morning song of a bird.

God, trickle into my thinking a thought of divine beauty and purpose. Help me to be captivated by it. 

For the next few moments, we invite that thought to be our calling. It grows and displaces those varmints out of the way.

What we focus on grows.

What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/ challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positives/ good things will always give me hope. – From my thinking compass

Were not going to make New Zealand predator-free in the next few moments, but in the moment of today, we can do what we can do. I could order a trap for my backyard.

Let a thought captivate you and pull you towards beauty and purpose.

Quotes to consider
  • Behind every despairing and fearful moment, there’s a wrong belief. Trace the lie, face the lie, and replace the lie with a new insight. D. Riddell
  • The warfare the Christian is involved in is the battle between true and mistaken beliefs. It is warring for reality against the delusional world of lies. Which side will you take? D. Riddell
  • The chief thief is the belief beneath, the subconscious is always the power behind the decisions we make and the outcomes we experience. David Riddell 
  • What we do comes out of who we believe we are. Rob Bell
Questions to answer
  1. What keeps you captive?
  2. What captivates you?
Further reading

Smelling the Roses Grows a Healthy Brain

Barry Pearman

Image Credit: Eric Ward

Feb 09, 2020
True Beauty Is Under The Tarnish
09:53

Many women don’t think they are beautiful.  A tarnish is over their soul. But underneath, there is a beauty that can change a world, a delight that needs to be listened for and affirmed.

There was a beauty there, and I wanted to affirm it. I could see it in the way she moved, the energy and thoughtfulness she placed into her intent. It was beautiful but tarnished.

When I said she was beautiful, it was dismissed immediately. Her tarnished thoughts had crowded in and screamed comparisonitis memes. Comparisons to Instagram models and airbrushed movie stars. The women in the clothes catalogs alway with the beautiful skin.

Fat Wrinkles Hips Stomach Hair Bags

Tarnished beauty

Have you ever noticed that on metal objects, a thin film or layer builds up on the outside. It’s a tarnish, which is a thin layer of corrosion that forms over the surface. The outermost layer is undergoing a chemical reaction.

Given enough time and the layers build up. The brightness and the ability of the metal to reflect is lost under layers of oxidation.

Did you notice the word ‘corrosion’? It eats away at the internal, creates a crust, hides the glory of what’s underneath.

To reveal the true and deep beauty of a tarnished object, those layers need to removed. Out comes some polish, something slightly abrasive and liquid.

Then with gentle but firm pressure, a rhythm is formed of working the polish over the tarnish and wiping the accumulated corrosion away.

Underneath the beauty is there. Shinning and a delight to the eyes. Alluring and dragging you in to know it more.

There is nothing more beautiful than a woman fully alive. Living without the tarnish of others oxidizing corrosive norms.

Was Mother Teresa beautiful?

And certain women

We don’t have an exact number of how many women were amongst Jesus followers, but we do know that there were quite a few.

The Twelve were with him. There were also some women in their company who had been healed of various evil afflictions and illnesses: Mary, the one called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s manager; and Susanna—along with many others who used their considerable means to provide for the company. Luke 8:1-3

In such a patriarchal male-dominated society, why were so many women magnetized by Jesus?

Jesus was a safe man, and women are drawn to safe men.

True men know real beauty is something more mysterious and alluring than anything of what a movie star can cosmetically enhance.

Beauty is a movement of the soul, and we notice it when we observe well.

Beauty is something to be discovered

That sunrise was beautiful, but you have to get up early in the morning to see it.

The bird song was beautiful, but you have to still yourself long enough to hear it.

The smell of a beautiful rose is divine, but you have to stop and stoop to catch the scent.

True beauty isn’t hand-delivered to you on a plate; it must be sought out to be experienced.

The wonder of women

Physical beauty, the tarnished perceptions, is fleeting, according to Proverbs 31:30. But there seems to be a beauty that sparkles brighter than a bunch of diamonds.

The writer of Proverbs 31, possibly a woman (King Lemuel’s Mother),  describes a beautiful woman in the categories of how she cares for her family, her creativity, industriousness, business wisdom, and generosity. She has an inner strength and dignity and gives respect to her husband and the way he moves into his world. 

I know many women like this wonder women. I don’t think they would consider themselves beautiful, because of the tarnish, but they are truly beautiful.

Affirming the beauty

I want to tell more women that they are beautiful, but I fear it will be misconstrued. People might well jump to conclusions that aren’t true. The words get filtered through the tarnish.

I tell my wife, daughter, and granddaughter that they are beautiful, but even then, the tarnish might dull the impact of the words.

I see beauty, it warms my heart, and I want to move towards and affirm it, so I might well say ‘that is a beautiful thing you do.’

It doesn’t speak to the wholeness of the beauty of who they are, but it might just cut through some of the tarnish.

Affirming the sunrise, the bird-song, and the waft of beauty is a gift we can give to others. It takes intention, courage, wisdom, and observation.

It’s a practice we need to become skilled at intuitively.

Quotes to consider
  • Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is experience in the soul of the individual. David G. Benner
  • Remain in beauty, and we will honor beauty everywhere. Richard Rohr
  • People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
  • When inspiration touches talent, she gives birth to truth and beauty. Steven Pressfield
  • Dying people can teach us … Often the attributes that define them drop away—the hair, the shape, the skills, the cleverness. And then it turns out that the packaging is not who that person has really been all along. Without the package, another sort of beauty shines through. Anne Lamott
Questions to answer
  1. What is beauty?
  2. What is the corrosive effect on a woman’s soul from the ‘beautiful people’ images and models?
  3. How can a man affirm beauty in a woman without coming across the wrong way?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image:David Pisnoy

Jan 30, 2020
How to relax? You need to Feel and Safe and Known
13:29

Few of us know how to fully and deeply relax. The noisy neighbors can keep us from the rest we need, but when we feel safe and known, we can restore.

He almost went to sleep. That was the first observation he shared with me after a short spiritual meditation exercise we went through — silence, peacefulness, quiet focus, and a ‘stepping away’ from the noise.

He stepped away from needing to be someone and to do something into a pose of quiet acceptance.

Breathing in, breathing out. Centering the thoughts and feelings away from the past and the future to being present in the now. Right here, right now.

Do you know how to relax?

It’s a serious question.

For many of us, the word relax might be connected with having a day off work, kicking back, sleep in, reading a book, watching a movie. But then you’re greeted by noisy neighbors. They come knocking at your door, speaking to your mind.

    • You’re not doing enough
    • You don’t deserve this
    • What will …. think?
    • If I don’t do this, then this will happen
    • I must do more
    • I must be more

To quell those noisy neighbors, I believe we need to feel both safe and known.

The need to feel safe

The first struggle I have observed in those that find deep relaxation difficult is one of safety.

Will I be ok if I relax? When will someone pounce? Who is going to tell me off? Maybe even the thought of ‘Will I get beaten?’ shouts fear into the awareness.

It could be the reality of their current lives. Living in a circle of abuse. But often it is the still reverberating echoes of another time.

Perhaps in those early formative years, there was a need for hypervigilance. To be always on alert for some threat.

A supposed safe place for most, the family, was a place of trauma, unpredictability.  So a pattern was formed of always being on guard.

It could be from a recent time, an abusive relationship and the cortisol trigger is finely tuned for release.

I remember when I was a pastor, people feeling so safe in my office that they went to sleep.

The need to feel known

One of the little mottos we often adopt is ‘If it’s going to be, then it’s up to me.’

On the healthy side, its a call to self-responsibility, but the unhealthy flip side is a rugged, self-reliant independence.  Relaxing, letting go of the need to do or to be, can feel like an abandonment of responsibility.

‘If I relax, then who is going to …’ ‘If I relax, then things won’t get done.’

We push back at the thought of quietness because we want to be in control.

But when that fear of ‘what will  happen’ is known, understood, and embraced by someone greater than ourselves, it always includes an invitation to relax.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

In that brief moment of invited relaxation, there is an assurance that it’s going to be ok.

You can pick up the responsibilities later after being restored and rejuvenated, but for that moment of relaxation, it’s time for you.

Permission to retreat

The word ‘retreat’ is an interesting one. I remember watching old movies as a kid and hearing the cry go up ‘Retreat!’ and the cowboys or the soldiers would run away from the battle.

‘Retreat’ seems to be a failure, a giving up, a defeat.

Retreat: (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.   Then we get these places called ‘Retreat centres’ and we hear of people going on ‘Spiritual retreats’. Aren’t they kind of weaklings? Running away from life?   The problem is that the body keeps score. Constant running into the noise of life takes its toll on the body and eventually the body will say enough. Stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, constant fatigue etc   Retreating is not a failure or a sign of weakness. Its a sign of health and an awareness that youre not superman. Your feet are made of clay and they need a foot bath and some pampering.   I give you permission to retreat.   We all have a lives where there is resistance. All of us are pushing into a wind and it pushes back. There is an interface and it tires the soul.   To retreat is not a failure. It is an honest awareness that we are not machines.   We need to time to refresh the skin that has faced the wind. We duck in behind a tree and let the world go by. We refresh to dance another day.   Mountain, boat, chest, feet.   

Jesus was and is the man who knows how to relax. He also has an invitational stance where relaxation is offered in bodily form to us.

With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. Matthew 14:23

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat. So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. Mark 6:31

A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! Mark 4:38-40

One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. John 13:23

Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. Luke 10:39-40

Jesus knew full well about the noisy neighbors. He also knew about the need to feel safe and known.

His invite is for you to retreat to a place where you feel safe. It could be a beach, a forest, a river, a special chair you have, a pillow to rest your head on. There is also an invite to rest your head on his chest and sit at his feet.

He wants you to know that he knows. He knows about the demands of your life. He knows the noisy neighbors, and he offers refreshment for the journey, that it’s going to be ok. That in this moment of relaxation, he can provide wisdom.

You might like to read more about this. There are some links at the bottom of this post.

I give you permission to relax.

Few of us know how to fully and deeply relax. The noisy neighbors can keep us from the rest we need, but when we feel safe and known, we can restore.

Quotes to consider
  • We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action. Eugene Peterson
  • Sleep is God’s contrivance for giving us the help he cannot get into us when we are awake. George Macdonald
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr
  • Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo
  • if you routinely practice relaxation, this will increase the activity of genes that calm down stress reactions, making you more resilient. Rick Hanson
Questions to consider
  1. What stops you from fully relaxing?
  2. Where is a place that says for you ‘Come and relax’?
  3. Who are your noisy neighbors, and what do you they keep saying to you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Craig Philbrick

Jan 22, 2020
Message Sent Message Heard. That Trivago Ad
11:45

Messages can be messy. We say one thing, they hear another, but we need to be heard so we need to learn about filters and speak with grace and compassion.

The message I heard was probably not the message they wanted to send. Who got it wrong?

Over the past few weeks, the online hotel booking company Trivago has been showing an ad on New Zealand Television featuring a young lady and an older lady. In the ad, the younger lady gets a better deal on her accommodation because she used the Trivago phone app.

As one commenter on Youtube says

‘What Trivago is really communicating in this ad, is that OLD people are ‘not with it’. Young people are smarter and more savvy. Stereotypes in other words.’

What message did you get from the ad?

Now I have asked a few people, and most felt the ad was ageist, discriminating against older people and offensive. Some didn’t see any problem with the ad. That Trivago was helpful to older people.

So I asked a friend of mine, Elizabeth Herr, who is a Certified Body Language Trainer to have a look at the ad.

I don’t see ageism at all. Instead, I see a sense of superiority/elitism from the older woman!

At 0:07, the younger woman has a slightly raised eyebrow, but this seems more indicative of knowing privately that she’s got the better deal – she has a genuine and even smile, but there is no malice.

The older woman, on the other hand, made a ‘show’ of the price quoted to her:

At 0:08, she lifts her chin (also called a chin jut), and her forehead is back. This, in effect, makes her ‘look down her nose’ in a superior manner.

This is followed at 0:10 by an eyebrow raise (to draw attention to what she says), a sideways glance of the eyes and head turn in the direction of the brunette. When she says ‘not bad,’ she also displays a contempt micro-expression (one-sided mouth raise). All of this shows a sense of disdain and superiority.

At 0:15, when she says ‘wait’ after hearing the quoted ‘ninety-five pounds,’ she displays a disgust micro-expression (lips pulled up).

At 0:21, the woman raises her eyebrows at hearing the benefits of Trivago. Eyebrow raise is often indicative that we like or approve of something or think something is ínteresting.

After the brunette explains the benefits of Trivago, she is still smiling at 0:24, but it’s still even (both sides raised, so no contempt).

At 0:26, the concierge tries to pry the card out of her hand while pursing his lips, indicating that he’s feeling stressed, and then right at 0:27, the lady has an angry expression on her face (brow furrowed).

The only ‘dig’ here might be that Trivago is insinuating that people of a certain age bracket are less ‘app savvy’ than the younger generation and is making them aware of their application. Elizabeth Herr The People Toolbox

Messages are messy

You say one thing, and they hear something completely different.

You think to yourself, or you might even say it out loud …

‘Why don’t they listen to me’!

They may well have been listening to you, but you weren’t speaking their language. You weren’t being clear with the message you were sending.

Sure the listener has a responsibility to listen. They have to choose to listen, to make sense of the words, the non-verbals, the context. What they hear will be some version of what you say, but it may not be the right version.

Message filters

To understand communication, you need to understand filters.

In photography, one of the ways to get some different looking images is to put filters over the lens of the camera.

When the light passes through the lens filter, it is changed and creates a different image to the reality of what is actually there.

We all have filters that we listen to others through.

  • Prejudices
  • Beliefs
  • Physical impairments – e.g., hearing loss
  • Experiences

A good communicator takes into account the filters people have and adjusts the message for clarity.

If you want to be heard
  1. Find out the filters This is going to take time and observation. Understanding your listener is a sign of respect that you want to know them and connect with them. After talking with them, ask them gentle curious questions to see if they got the right message.
  2. Speak with compassion If you want connection, then you need to have compassion for the listeners. They don’t know what you’re trying to communicate. So think about their situation first.
Seasoned with salt

The apostle Paul in writing a letter to some early Christian believers, tells us that our speech needs to be gracious, seasoned with salt.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone. Colossians 4:6 

Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:6 (The Message)

Enhance the flavor of your speech with grace. Listen and speak with love.

Quotes to consider
  • People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Theodore Roosevelt
  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker
  • “A brother has not given up all things if he holds onto the purse of his own opinions.” Francis of Assisi – Richard Rohr Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi 
  • Most people do not see things as they are; they see things as they are! Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater
Questions to answer
  1. What was your first response to the Trivago ad?
  2. What filters do you have that you listen to messages through?
  3. Do you ever exclaim ‘Why don’t people listen to me’? Where does the responsibility for the communication begin?
Further reading

Jan 15, 2020
God, will it always be like this? Being a slave to despair
13:09

God, will it always be like this? That was what their heart was wanting to know. The answer lay in knowing their slave master of despair. Hope is the dance partner of Faith and Love.

Every day felt the same, in fact, every week and every month. Do the job, make a meal, go to sleep: repeat, repeat, repeat — monotonous drudgery.

It wasn’t just the repetitive nature of the grind that got to you., it was the slow wearing down of the soul.

It was like something beautiful and purposeful was being scraped off a ‘Mona Lisa,’ dropped on the floor, trampled on, and ground into dust.

They sensed they were losing themselves. Who they were, who they were meant to be — all at the hands of a slavemaster tyrant.

 

Your slave master

What keeps you stuck? What keeps you in the same Mental Health timezone?

That hole of depression. That tightrope of anxiety.

For a nation of people, it was the oppression of an Egyptian slavemaster. They were building a man’s glory while destroying their own.

That was the lot of the nation of Israel. Slaves to Pharoah. Brickmakers day in, day out.

So they [the Egyptians] organized them into work-gangs and put them to hard labor under gang-foremen. They built the storage cities Pithom and Rameses for Pharaoh. But the harder the Egyptians worked them, the more children the Israelites had—children everywhere! The Egyptians got so they couldn’t stand the Israelites and treated them worse than ever, crushing them with slave labor. They made them miserable with hard labor—making bricks and mortar and back-breaking work in the fields. They piled on the work, crushing them under the cruel workload. Exodus 1:11-14

It’s easy to identify an external slavemaster.

It’s their fault. They are the ones to blame. They are the ones who are making my life miserable. So easy to give others more power than God ever wanted them to have.

Yes, some people are controllers; they like to be slave masters, dominating, and oppressing. They, too, are trapped in their fears.

Locus of control

There is an interesting psychological concept called Locus of control

Locus of control is the degree to which people believe that they have control over the outcome of events in their lives, as opposed to external forces beyond their control. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality studies. A person’s “locus” (plural “loci,” Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualized as internal (a belief that one can control one’s own life) or external (a belief that life is controlled by outside factors which the person cannot influence, or that chance or fate controls their lives).[1]

Individuals with a strong internal locus of control believe events in their life derive primarily from their own actions: for example, when receiving exam results, people with an internal locus of control tend to praise or blame themselves and their abilities. People with a strong external locus of control tend to praise or blame external factors such as the teacher or the exam. Wikipedia Locus of control

What does your focus tell you about your locus?

I have found in myself and others that focusing on how other people treat you (external locus) takes away a sense of personal power. You give the other more power than they need to have.

We even can do this with God. Blaming God for our circumstances instead of taking healthy responsibility for our own choices.

Oh, yes, and we can blame the devil. ‘The devil made me buy this dress’ by Flip Wilson springs to mind (must listen!).

There has to be a time where you come to an internal locus of control. What can I do? What do I have control over?

The crying out of the slave

There comes a time when you have had enough of being a slave.

The slavery of a belief you have held in your brain. A Pharoah sized belief is keeping you in captivity. You recognize that there is some internal thinking work you need to do.

No one else can do this for you. It’s your brain, your responsibility, 100%.

You cry out in prayer because you realize that this is too big for you to do it by yourself.  

Supernatural goals need supernatural resources. Larry Crabb

 

You sense yourself as being like those Israelites.

The Israelites groaned under their slavery and cried out. Their cries for relief from their hard labor ascended to God:

God listened to their groanings.

God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

God saw what was going on with Israel.

God understood. Exodus 2: 23-25 (The Message)

Then, in the male aspect of God’s divine nature, God moves (Exodus 3).

Your Moses

God moves to a man on the run. A man also trapped and enslaved by his beliefs. Moses had been living in the desert for 40 years. He had killed an Egyptian slavemaster and had fled.

Forty years of being shaped by both the harshness and the beauty of the wilderness.

Forty years in the wilderness getting to know the beast Projected and reflected on the greatest and the least Forty years of days and nights — angels hovering near Kept me moving forward though the way was far from clear Bruce Cockburn

We all need a Moses. Someone who will speak healing truth to our lies, the concoctions we have created in our minds that keep us enslaved.

It will be Spirit (Holy) nudging, poking, prodding, alluring us to face the falsity.

I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.  Jesus John 14:16-17

The words of encouragement will come through others. People who have a compelling vision for you that things can be different. Silence will be involved where you have to both wrestle and dance with your own beliefs.

I, Barry, may also be involved. If I can, at the very least, pray for you, then it would be a great privilege. Send me an email via the contact form.

Will it always be like this? I don’t think so. History tells me that change happens. Hope is the dance partner of Faith and Love, so let’s keep seeing where this leads.

Quotes to consider
  • Despair is what happens when there is a lack of new creation. When things are just are what they are and there is a deep sense of impotence that there is nothing you can do about it. Rob Bell Episode 219 | Jesus H. Christ – Part 9 – Is That His Last Name?
  • Despair is a spiritual condition. Despair is when you fall under the belief and conviction that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Rob Bell 
  • Without the inner discipline of faith, most lives end in negativity, blaming, or deep cynicism—without even knowing it. Richard Rohr Page: 24 Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi 
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • When you are no longer able to change, what will God do with you, if you have not yet become what He wants?  D. Riddell
  • God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change. Richard Rohr
  • Don’t judge the future by the past – the future will be different when new insights and understandings restore hope. David Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. What beliefs are keeping you, enslaved?
  2. What’s it like to know God listens to your groans, remembers the promises, sees your plight, and understands?
  3. What would ‘God moving’ into your situation look like? Would you like an ‘on the run’ convict to be your advocate/ rescuer?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Nagy Arnold

Jan 01, 2020
Nine Interesting Questions to Help you Handle Criticism
10:58

Criticism comes to us all, but we can grow through it. We need to listen, ask questions and learn how to handle it with dignity.

They knew what was going to happen even before they got home. They were going to have to run through a gauntlet of criticism.

  • Where did you go?
  • Why did you do that?
  • Can’t you do anything right
  • You’re always doing that
Criticism hurts

Some of the words were like outright punches to their soul, while others were like a cat digging its claws in just to let you know its there. Little scratches, dragging deep, cutting to the core.

This was becoming a normal part of life.

Poke, poke, prick, prick, punch, punch.  It was wearing them down to where they saw every little comment as a criticism. They were getting swallowed up by the negativity and losing their breath.

It’s a sad reality that words can cut you down, and little jabs can take you out.

Have you ever been criticized? How did you handle it?

Most of us don’t handle criticism well.

All too often, one criticism collects with another criticism, and a pattern is formed in our brain. A belief is birthed that we are a failure, everything we do is wrong, and we have no value.

This can be so hard wired into us that even when someone isn’t criticizing us, we still hear it as a criticism. Our negativity bias in our brain can warp even a kind word into a critique.

What can help to handle the negativity is to ask yourself some questions that will shift your thinking out of reaction and self condemnation into a more reflective pragmatic mode.

Nine questions to help you handle criticism
  1. What was my emotional response to the criticism? Did I bury it? Take it in as truth? Get angry, frustrated? Examining your feelings may help you make sense of it all.
  2. Have I clarified the criticism? People say things to us, and we respond but is our response accurate to what was being said. It’s often useful to slow the emotion train down and pragmatically ask clarifying questions. ‘So what I hear you saying is …’ ‘Can you explain … to me further.’ ‘Would be able to tell me more?’
  3. Can you write their criticism down? As part of clarifying the criticism, write it down, present it to them, ask them if you got it right. Create a log of all the criticisms you endure. Put all the criticisms into one place. It may show some trends.
  4. Is there some truth to learn here? All of us have areas in our lives that we could work on. Such as not putting your dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher is annoying. Perhaps their criticism has some validity.

     

     Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts,     but profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

    As iron sharpens iron,     so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

  5. Is this more about them than it is about me? Are they letting off steam, and you happen to get caught in the vent? Perhaps they are a bully, wanting to dominate and control. Maybe there is a pecking order that they want to maintain. Perhaps they are blaming you for things that are actually their responsibility.
  6. Is there a pattern to their criticism? There may well be a pattern to their fault-finding. Every day at a specific time, they always take a shot. Perhaps it’s related to an event. ‘You always forget to buy peanut butter’ after you have been shopping.
  7. Could a problem-solving sheet help? If there is a regular pattern of criticism, it might be time to pull out a problem-solving sheet and pragmatically work through the issue. Learn more here
  8. Is my inner critic the one that is creating the noise? We all have an inner critic that regularly tells us we are not doing this or that. That we are not performing up to a certain standard. Comparisonitis can kick in too. The criticism heard was minor but its being amplified by the inner critic. Sometimes you have to tell your inner critic to SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP or perhaps more gently to take a back seat.
  9. Has a line of love and respect (boundary) been crossed, and if so, what are the consequences for crossing them? Some times it just gets too much. A line had been crossed, and you need to express a consequence. ‘When you said that, it crossed a line.  The consequence will be …’
Summary

Remember, you can’t control how others respond to you. What you can control is how you respond to them.

It takes time, reflective time, where you listen to yourself and what gets generated within you when a criticism lands. Then move out from there.

Quotes to consider
  • Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5
  • Other peoples’ reaction to you might be telling you more about themselves, than about you. Don’t take it so personally. D. Riddell
  • It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife. Proverbs 21:9
  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. Peter Drucker
  • Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu
  • He who throws dirt always loses ground. Unknown
  • He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help. Abraham Lincoln
  • Praise and encouragement is much more effective in changing others’ behaviour than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Can we become hypersensitive to criticism? How can we defuse the hypersensitivity?
  2. Who has a stronger voice in your life? The inner critic or an outer critic?
  3. What example can you think of where criticism was given in a helpful way. What made it helpful?
Further reading

Give them your Shirt and confuse the bully into shame

How ‘Going the extra Mile’ Flips the Power Dynamics

Does ‘Turning the other cheek’ mean I have to keep taking abuse?

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Matthew T Rader

Dec 18, 2019
Upon Leaving the Cocoon
10:44

We all have a cocoon around us that may keep us safe, too safe, but there is a time for leaving the old and entering the new. Sometimes we have to walk through the crowd to get there. 

Something new was happening in them. They were changing, leaving. There was a spark in their eyes, and people were starting to notice, comment, and ask questions. They were leaving a tired old cocoon.

It had been a safe place,  but now it was getting too cramped and tight for all the work they had been doing on the inside. It had been mostly hidden work, and only a few knew the struggles and suffering they had been through, but now it was time to evolve. 

When the memories joined up, and the story gained clarity, things began to make sense. When she was offered new truth and insights, further sense was made about who she truly was. Lightbulb thinking moments began to spark, then whole street rows of lights glowed, and a new path was shown.

Massive learnings were beginning to take place.

What she had believed about herself once was now being turned upside down. She was starting to see her life the right side up.

Upon leaving the cocoon

I’ve noticed that often when people have this sense of emergence, there are several responses.

  1. Wonderment and joy. Everything seems fresh, alive, and full of adventurous invitation. There is a whole new world to explore.
  2. Anger and Grief. There can be grief and anger at being kept in the old prison for so long.
  3. Celebration from others. People notice and rejoice in the change.
  4. Ambivalence from others. They don’t notice. They are so trapped in their small world contexts that they are blind to see the beauty coming forward.
  5. Rejection from others. Some will question it, challenge it, and possibly reject it. It makes them uncomfortable to see ripples of newness.
Walkthrough the crowd

In an interesting little story of Jesus, we see him breaking out of the cocoon of others’ expectations. Their response was a desire to kill the butterfly.

He had just announced to his township who he was, and they didn’t take kindly to his divinity.

They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way. Luke 4:29-30

At times you have to leave the town behind because the town will keep you in the mindset of a town.

The next time he came home, the town still kept him in the framework of the past.

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said,

“Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.”  And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:54-58

Your framework

The town saw him as the carpenter’s son, mother – Mary, brothers, sisters.

That was the identity for which they could place him in. The markers of identity were true, but he had left the cocoon of their context.

They were trying to fit the box of their context around the Son of God. Impossible.

No miracles happened there, nothing of life-changing power for them. Jesus moved on through the crowd yet again. Leaving them behind in their own cocoon.

What’s your cocoon?

What are the walls you are pressing up against that need to broken apart? Are there some beliefs about yourself that you need to tear away? Are you allowing others to define your town?

There is a beauty and purpose that may well be waiting for expression.

Let it come in its own time and walk through the crowd because, as Mother Teresa says, ‘it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.’

Quotes to consider
  • And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death. Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live. Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat. Perfection is static, and I am in full progress. Abnormal pleasures kill the taste for normal ones. Anaïs Nin
  • People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway. Mother Teresa

  • All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah, in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart Questions to answer
  1. What frameworks do you and others keep yourself in?
  2. Have you had any experience of leaving a ‘cocoon’? What was it like? How did others respond?
  3. What is the cocoon you need to begin to let go of?
Further Reading

Image cc: Suzanne D. Williams

Dec 11, 2019
Learning to Detach Helps with Anxiety
00:00

Anxiety can make you want to control, but learning to detach can bring peace. Perhaps you care too much and its time to let go.

She was holding on tightly. Too tightly. It was care, it was love, but in that embrace, she was suffocating the life out of the other, and destroying peace in herself.

She was not allowing the other to find their way through the pains of growth.

I know what it’s like. You become so emotionally attached to someone that they are glued to your soul. In a good sense, its love, but on the dark side, it can lead to control, manipulation, anxiety, worry, and fear. 

You see their warts, and you want to fix, rescue, or save them.

A heartbeat of anxiety pounds within your head and worry flows around you.

You’re consumed by it, but you know that there is nothing you can do. You’ve tried to control, manipulate, and bribe compliance, but the more you do this, the greater the anxiety grows. You try to take power over the situation, but it only backfires in your face.

There is a time to detach

I’ve noticed in these times of fear that a quiet invitation to detach comes. To let go that which I have been clasping on to.

I think that the best way I can describe this healthy form of detachment might be in two metaphors and a parable.

Space vehicles I see the image of the Apollo rocket and its vehicle detaching. Joined through an airlock, there is a free flow of people and supplies. But there comes a time when they have to detach. One lets the other one go. It’s quiet and seamless. The other may not even know there has been a detachment, but there is a knowing that there will be a return.

I see myself letting go.

The release in the dance

Two dancers joined together. Hand to hand, eye to eye, waist to waist. There’s a closeness and a connection, but then comes a moment when one dancer is released to perform another movement. There is a healthy detachment with the hope of return.

Loving the prodigal

It’s a story with many layers, but in the parable of the Loving Father (Prodigal Son), we see a loving father releasing his son to go his own way. Its a detachment. He is letting the son go.

There is the hope of a return, but it’s not certain. The father is not dependant on a son’s approval or love for him to have peace. The father hopes and looks for the son to learn something about his very own loving and secure nature.

The son enters the darkness to return to the light.

Healthy and unhealthy detachment

Healthy detachment comes with love for the other and yourself. You realize that holding on is not helping them learn. It’s not helping you find peace. Your protecting them is not allowing them to learn from the natural consequences.

Unhealthy detachment comes with selfishness. It’s all about you and getting your needs met your way. You have no concern for them at all. Its the opposite of love, its indifference.

Poet or a chessplayer?

One of my favorite quotes is this.

“Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.”  G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

What he is saying that if you live your life like a chessplayer where you are trying to control all the pieces and manipulate an outcome, then it’s going to be very stressful and anxiety forming.

Whereas, a poet finds creative freedom by being attached to the ‘imagination.’

A prayer of release

Detaching requires wisdom. A knowing that it’s going to be ok on the other side.

This knowing is discovered through practice. The more you learn to let go, the greater you learn that you will be ok. That someone greater is still holding your hand.

Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr serenity prayer is a prayer of release and detachment. Its a prayer you might like to pray whenever those feelings of anxiety well up.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Reinhold Niebuhr

Anxiety can make you want to control, but learning to detach can bring peace. Perhaps you care too much and its time to let go.

Quotes to consider
  • Anxiety can make you want to control but learning to detach can bring peace. Perhaps you care too much and its time to let go.
  • If some problems have no adequate explanations, and never will have, then we must come to grips with confusion and learn to live in mystery.   Larry Crabb
  • Don’t try to change others, work on yourself instead. Your response to others is always your responsibility, and the right response ensures respect all round. David Riddell
  • If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when? Hillel the Elder
  • I’ve got this thing in my heart I must give you today It only lives when you Give it away. Bruce Cockburn
Questions to answer
  1. What feelings emerge when you consider letting go and detaching?
  2. Who is in control?
  3. Are you more the Chessplayer or more the Poet?
Further reading

A Simple Way That God Cares For Your Worn Out Soul

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Natalie Grainger

Dec 05, 2019
‘Power over’ or ‘Power With’. What causes you to flourish?
11:59

‘Power over’ was normal, but ‘power with’ was what they needed. When we listen deeply, we move forward.  Mental health flourishes when power is shared.

She was small in stature, and I think she also saw herself as being a little person, insignificant. She was also quiet and never really said much or offered up an opinion. When she shared some of her story, I learned how, as a young adult, she had developed schizophrenia.

In her delusional state, she had done some very destructive things to people’s property. She had been committed to living in a Mental Health hospital and lived there for many years.

In an ordered regimented world like one of those old Mental Health hospitals, you lose your power, and you can even lose your identity.

Do this, do that, and you and the world will be safe. Straight jacketed secure, but safe none the less.

But I always made it a point to seek out her opinion. Not the surface opinion but her views deeper down, under the self-belief she had that her opinion didn’t matter.

There was gold to be had under the layers of power abuses she had endured.

Power dynamics

In mental health work and much of life, we need to understand the role of power. Who has it and how it’s used. ‘Power over’ and ‘Power with.’

Power over This form of power is top-down. Being told what to do. Bullying, domination, control, authority. You see it everywhere because it’s easy to do. There is no need for negotiation.

It’s ‘My way or the highway’; Win: lose where I win, and you lose; ‘I know what’s best for you.’

This type of power is enforced in many ways. It could be by controlling the resources we need to live: money, food, shelter, medical care. Or it could be more subtle by controlling information, approval, love.

We often only become aware of its functioning when we see it in its extreme. The bully and the battered wife.

Sometimes, particularly in Mental Healthcare, it is needed. When someone is unwell, they may not have the rational ability to make informed decisions. For their safety and the safety of others, they may have to receive compulsory enforced health care.

I well remember talking with people who were having psychotic episodes who thought they were perfectly well, yet everyone around could see that they had lost contact with reality. They were hearing and seeing things no one else experienced, and this was leading them to want to do dangerous things. There had to be an intervention for their sakes as well as society as a whole.

Power with

This is sharing the power to make a decision about what to do.  It grows out of the soil of listening. There is mutual respect and support for each other. A valuing of each other’s opinions and a desire to learn more.

In a ‘power with’ relationship questions are asked

  • Can we work on this together?
  • Please tell me more?
  • Help me understand?
  • Did I understand you correctly?
  • Have you any questions for me?
  • Is there anything you don’t understand?
Why this matters for Mental Health

When someone becomes unwell with Mental illness, often they lose a great deal of power. People, with all the best intentions in the world, tell them what they should do.

Go to the doctor, read this book, try this herbal remedy. In looking for help, they may get all the advice but little support in working through the options.

Often there can be a disconnect with an ability to do anything about heir situation. They don’t know about the options available to them.

Many times I have sat with people who have been confused about their mental wellness. The best message I have given them is, ‘I don’t know what is going on either, but together we will find a way through.’ Then we might talk about options such as going together to see a Doctor.

Is God ‘power over’ or ‘power with’?

I believe that how you view God is how you view everything. If you think God is a distant old man in the sky reigning ‘power over’ lighting bolts down on us, then that is going to color your thinking.

For me, I believe that God is in a ‘power with’ us relationship.

We may be looking for the miracle ‘power over’ encounters of healing when all along God offers us miracle moments of ‘power with’ love and grace.

John tells it this way

The Word became flesh and blood,     and moved into the neighborhood. John 1:14

In the Greek, it says that God came and tabernacled with us. A tabernacle is a tent, so I see a holiday campsite and God coming and setting up a tent next to mine. We share some sausages, have a few beers, listen to the cricket (sport), and maybe go fishing together.

The presence of God tenting with me empowers me to express this ‘power with’ relationship with others.

The invitation of empowerment

The invite is to observe those moments where you want to quickly ‘power over’ others. Why do you want to do this?

Then to pull back and look for ways in which you can develop a ‘power with’ relationship.

It starts with listening. Asking good questions and providing information that will keep the dialogue flowing.

Empowerment of others may mean a lessening of your own self. It may mean putting the needs of others ahead of your own. It may mean taking the back seat so others can learn to drive. But hey, then you can enjoy the scenery!

Quotes to consider
  • If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • ‘Whom do we listen to and whom do we trust? Trust is essential to listening. Why do we believe the myth that the poor people don’t know anything and can’t be trusted? Where do you really find more truth about society – at the top or the bottom? Are the best solutions conceived in the corridors of power or in the neighborhoods? Jim Wallis
  • Only those willing to stand close enough to listen will ever hear those closest to the problem. Jim Wallis
  • “Research teaches us that the capacity to reach out to others for help in dealing with fear and pain is the best single remedy for emotional injury.  Whether the person is struggling with the effects of combat, rape, or childhood injury, the best predictor of trauma resolution is good social support.” ~ Terrence Real, I Don’t Want To Talk About It 
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C.S. Lewis 
Questions to answer
  1. What examples of ‘power over’ and ‘power with’ can you think of?
  2. Why do we use ‘power over’ as a default method in our relationships?
  3. What would it take for you to adopt a more ‘power with’ relationship with others?

Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image:Ryan Tauss

Nov 27, 2019
Good things, like Mental Health, take Time. Let’s be patient
11:04

We all want immediate results. A change to our situation, but Mental Health recovery takes time, so let’s be patient with ourselves and others.

‘I wish this would go away’ were the unsaid words messaged in the face of despair, looking at me.

I had seen that gaze many times, and with compassion, I would have loved to have given them a miracle sweep of a magicians wand and see their depression leave, the memories of trauma retreat away, the marriage restored, the grief softened.

We live in an immediate world. With the gentlest of touches on the screen of a smartphone, we can get instant results.  But the healing of a broken soul can seem interminable. 

No Shortcuts

Of course, there is a time for pace, to get to the desired location quickly and efficiently, but I have found in my own life and others that in the healing of the soul, in Mental Health recovery, there are no shortcuts.

If a so-called shortcut is found and taken, then it seems that you wind up back where you started in the first place, still facing the problems and the pain.

Short cuts to relieve the pain might be a preferred addiction – drugs, alcohol, porn, hobbies, sex, shopping. Anything that offers the briefest of moments of avoidance. We also like to minimize, fix the problem quickly, move on, move.

We slap a bandaid on the wound without cleaning out the pus, and we think we’re done.

Mainland Cheese

We have a brand of cheese here in New Zealand called Mainland cheese. Its made in the South Island, and part of its branding message is that it takes time to make good cheese.

The advertisements feature images of beautiful South Island scenery and peaceful music. It’s like stepping back into another time with two elderly gentlemen talking about the old times. It’s very nostalgic.

The message is that ‘good things take time.’

Mental health takes time. Reflection time and brain change time.

Reflection time

When you look into a mirror, you see the image of yourself a fraction of a millisecond ago. It’s the speed of light, but it is history you’re looking at. So you comb your hair this way or that. You apply makeup, or you shave that bit of stubble you missed.

You observe the reflection and learn from it.

Experience is not a great teacher.

I have seen people have the same experience over and over again. They do the same stupid things repeatedly, and never learn from them.

They haven’t taken time to dig deep into what has gone on, why they repeatedly do the same thing over and over again. They have a blind guide, and it’s themself.

Mental health grows out of deep and sometimes painful reflection. Taking time to embrace the reality of the struggle fully.

Good things can’t be rushed. It takes time to sit and ponder.

Brain change time

It’s so good to know that our brains are capable of being rewired. That we can have new networks laid into the physical structure of our brain. This, of course, takes time.

I would love to be able to see the rewiring of my brain from when it was at its most depressed/ anxious state many years ago to where it is now. Old pathways are dying off, new ones growing, and then falling away as even fresher and more unique paths take their place.

Brain change is a process of unlearning old ways and learning new paths.

Its an evolving creative garden of neurological delight.

In the past, when I have been asked to pray for the healing of someone with a Mental Illness, I have prayed for those small little neurons to change physically.

That is where Mental Health miracles take place.

Most people want an immediate change to the way they feel and think, but that would be a too radical change for anyone to handle.

Mental health healing is slow and gradual. It needs to be. No one could handle a brain transplant the way we emotionally want it to happen.

Patience, please

There is some good work going on, but it takes patience for the maturity of the cheese to come.

Patience, not pushing, demanding, or pressuring yourself to be something you’re not ready for. There is a natural healing that has to take its own time.

There is a practice to be had of acceptance and then stepping out and trying new things. Patience grows out of an awareness of our limitations but with a gentle hope for something more.

The size of a neuron

Imagine all the billions of neurons in your brain. Super tiny, all firing off little electrical messages that help you do everything you do.

Some of those neurons have run their course in your life. They were useful once, but now after careful reflection, you want to learn some new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. That may seem daunting to you, but let’s keep focused at the size of a neuron. Super small, you want to see change.

Form a habit of small.

Prayerfully ask God to help with the rewiring of your neurons.

I have lots of suggestions in my free ebook  Four Spiritual Exercises for Mental Health. 

Also, there are links below to other articles that can help.

Quotes to consider
  • Where there is great love there are always miracles. Willa Cather
  • Experience isn’t the best teacher, evaluated experience is. John C Maxwell
  • We must die to one life before we can enter into another. Anatole France 
  • A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else. Richard Rohr
  • Changing behaviour by use of will-power alone will soon result in playing the same tune, but in a different key. The problems just move sideways. D. Riddell
Questions to answer
  1. Why do we want quick solutions?
  2. What changes have you noticed in your Mental Health due to your spending time in reflection?
  3. How does love create a context for Mental Health miracles?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image cc: Alexander Maasch

Nov 20, 2019
Would you Know my TRUE Name
11:45

Many live under a false identity, a name used for the convenience of others, but when we learn their true name connection happens. So what’s your real name?

She said what her name was I knew that it wasn't her real name.

Now that caught my attention because in front of me was a lady of apparent Indian descent. Being the curious character I am, I pushed a little further, and she told her ‘real’ name.

I call her by her real name now. Connection.

I understand why so many people with foreign names adopt a new name. Its called convenience. It’s easier for others to remember, to speak, and I suppose it is a statement of a desire to fit in.

I’ve been carrying out this weirdo experiment for a little while now. Wherever I go regularly, and I see the same person serving me like at the petrol station, I ask them their name. If I think it’s not their real name, then I push a little further, ask them their real name, and endeavor to remember it for the next meeting.

Some of the Asian names are difficult to say because of all the tonal inflections, but just because it might be challenging to pronounce does not give me a license to ignore their true name.

My true name

One person used the words ‘True name’ to describe the name they had been given.

My brain leaped at the word ‘True’ because it’s opposite to the word ‘False.’

Maybe it is a false identity that we are dealing with — living under a false name.

True self/ false self.

Do we want to know something false?

When I recently asked someone how it felt that I wanted to know their name, they said it felt good, nice, and special to think that someone wanted to ‘put the effort’ into knowing their name.

I suppose they felt welcomed and valued.

Welcoming the foreigner

In God’s economy, there are no foreigners. God knows everyone and knows them all by name. Their true name.

Explicit instructions were given as part of the law.

“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.  Leviticus 19:33, 34

Welcoming the foreigner may be as simple as getting to know the true name of the person who mows your lawn or serves your food at the Dunkin Donuts.

Lonely world

We live in an increasingly lonely world, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The foreigner maybe someone you meet every day but is disconnected at a heart level of connection.

It’s often inconvenient to stretch out and be vulnerable.

To open your arms, metaphorically, and embrace the other means your own heart is being exposed to the potential of rejection. A behavior of love being misconstrued as an act of intrusiveness.

When you learn their name

Jim Wallis, in his book Faith Works, tells the story of a lawyer, Dale Recinella, who gets involved in helping out at a local Soup Kitchen.

About twenty years ago, I started helping out at the noon meal of the Good News Soup Kitchen in Tallahassee.

It was located in the city’s then worst crack/prostitution district, halfway between the State Capital and the Governor’s Mansion. I showed up every day in my three-piece suit to help from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

The staff assigned me to “door duty.” That meant my job was to ensure that the street people are lining up to eat waited in an orderly fashion. Every day, I stood at the door for an hour, chatting with the street people waiting to eat.

Before I came to Good News, “street people” was a meaningless term. It defined a group without defining anybody in particular. From the comfort of my car, my suburban home, and my downtown law office, street people were just “those people out there somewhere.”

Then, one day, an elderly woman named Helen came running to the Good News door. A man was chasing her, threatening to kill her if she didn’t give him back his dollar.

“Tell him he can’t hit me here ‘cuz it’s church property!” she pleaded.

In true lawyer fashion, I explained that Good News is not a church, but he still couldn’t hit her. After twenty minutes of failed mediation, I purchased peace by giving each of them a dollar.

That evening, I happened to be standing on the corner of Park and Monroe, a major intersection a few blocks from the State Capital and outside my law office. In the red twilight, I spied a lonely silhouette struggling in my direction from Tennessee St.

“Poor street person,” I thought, as the figure inched closer.

I was about to turn back to my own concerns when I detected something familiar in that shadowy figure. The red scarf. The clear plastic bag with white border. The unmatched shoes.

“My God,” I said in my thoughts, “that’s Helen.”

My eyes froze on her as she limped by and turned up Park. No doubt, she would crawl under a bush to spend the night. My mind had always dismissed the sight of a street person in seconds. It could not expel the picture of Helen.

That night, as I lay on my $1500 deluxe, temperature-controlled waterbed in the suburbs, I couldn’t sleep. A voice in my soul kept asking,

“Where’s Helen sleeping tonight?”

No street person had ever interfered with my sleep before. But the shadowy figure with the red scarf and plastic bag had followed me home.

I had made a fatal mistake.

I had learned her name. 

Let’s put an end to fraudulent living and get to know each other’s names, their true names. As we embrace the ‘foreigner,’ we might just learn something about our name and the identity we have.

Quotes to consider
  • ‘An embrace involves always a double movement of opening and closing. I open my arms to create space in myself for the other. The open arms are a sign of discontent at being myself only and of desire to include the other. They are an invitation to the others to come in and feel at home with me, to belong to me. In an embrace I also close my arms around the others – not tightly, so as to crush and assimilate them forcefully into myself, for that would not be an embrace but a concealed power-act of exclusion; but gently, so as to tell them that I do not want to be without them in their otherness. I want them in their openness. I want them to remain independent and true to their genuine selves, to maintain their identity and as such become part of me so that they can enrich me with what they have and I do not’. Judith M Gundry-Volf, Miroslav Volf. A spacious heart: essays on identity and belonging.
  • Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye named not good. John Milton
  • The heart of spirituality is connection. When we believe in that inextricable connection, we don’t feel alone. Brené Brown
  • There is a soul yonder which is lonely.” And he added, deep in his own mind, “I owe him a visit.” Les Miserables Victor Hugo
  • The spiritual life is a life of engagement and connection, not a life of isolation and alienation. But healthy spirituality involves a particular way of relating to others and to the world. It involves relating in love. David G. Benner
Questions to answer
  1. Whom do you know that might have a different name to the one they use with you?
  2. What stops us from asking someone their name?
  3. Who is a ‘foreigner’ to you?
Further reading

Barry Pearman

Image Unsplash Cristian Newman

Nov 14, 2019
Episode 15 Everyone needs a Batman
10:08

Life has challenges and can’t be faced alone, but with the help of faithful and loyal friends, we can make it through. We all need a Batman.

They were right there beside me. Where I went, they went. I couldn’t shake them off, and neither would I want to. They saw both my very private moments of despair and the times of victorious success. He was my batman and carried my bat well.

Before Batman wore a mask

Long before Batman made his appearance as comic book caped crusader, some men had a role in military life as being a batman for a senior officer. They were essentially a servant to an officer in the army.

The term is derived from the obsolete word ‘bat’ meaning ‘packsaddle.’ The batman was in charge of the officers ‘bat-horse,’ which would carry the officers kit during a campaign.

A batman’s duties often included

  • acting as a “runner” to convey orders from the officer to subordinates
  • maintaining the officer’s uniform and personal equipment as a valet
  • driving the officer’s vehicle, sometimes under combat conditions
  • acting as the officer’s bodyguard in combat
  • digging the officer’s foxhole in combat, giving the officer time to direct his unit
  • other miscellaneous tasks the officer did not have time or inclination to do

    Batman (military)

    Sam Hodges

Not a name we probably know, but Sam Hodges was batman to J.R.R. Tolkien at the Battle of the Somme in World War I. This place of hellish death and evil was the context out of which Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien, I believe, honors his batman by naming one of the principal characters in the story after him.

In the epic story, a small furry footed hobbit called Frodo is on a mission to rid the world of a powerful ring. Alongside him walks an equally little man named Samwise Gangee, a batman to his friend.

So typical was the loyal response of a batman to his officer is that of Sam to Frodo.

“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you.”  J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Jonathan, Ruth, and Mary

When we look into the biblical hero stories of men and women like you and me, we find batmen.

David had Jonathan. He also had his mighty men who would go way beyond the call of duty to serve their leader.

Naomi had a daughter in law Ruth, who declared her loyalty.

Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  Ruth 1:16-18

Jesus had Mary

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:1-8

The Batman sees

There is something special about the truest of batmen and batwomen. They see something beyond the immediate struggle. When the one they are serving loses heart, they come alongside and fill up the encouragement tank.

They know that their role is subservient to some higher calling. That there is a mission, and their part to play is backstage.

In real life

I’ve been batman to many. I haven’t dug any actual foxholes, but I have provided places for people to come and find shelter from the storms and battles of life.

It takes the vision of seeing in someone else the battles and challenges they are facing. That takes deep listening.

Then a coming alongside and pouring encouragement into the soul.

For a man, it might well be noticing the remembered movements he is making in his world. He is on a quest, and he stumbles, he falls, you pick him up and tell to keep going.

For a woman, it might well be noticing the beauty that is contained within her. There is an invite there to know something of that divine beauty. She gets hurt, used, and wants to hide, but you confirm the beauty and help her to reveal it once more.

Have we lost batman?

In the foolishness of self individualism, where its all about ‘me’ and less about ‘we’ perhaps we have lost the awareness of batmen and batwomen. The faithful Samwise Gamgee, the loyalty of Ruth, and the self-sacrifice of Mary.

Theodore Roosevelt wrote this

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; ‘The Man in the Arena.’

For every ‘man in the arena,’ there has to be a batman or batwoman in his corner. Someone who will wipe away the dust and sweat and blood. Someone who will give him water and a warm, encouraging pat on the back.

It’s time to acknowledge and endorse the role of Batman and Batwoman and rid Gotham city of despair.

Quotes to consider
  • Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
  • Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus
  • When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
  • Encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor,  which literally means “heart”.  So does the word  courage.  To have courage means to have heart.  To encourage  – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart.  Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner
Questions to answer
  1. What are the qualities of a good batman?
  2.  What other examples can you think of people in the background who have been batmen?
  3. How do we encourage those who seem to be like batmen?
Further reading

 

Barry Pearman

Nov 06, 2019
Episode 14 Every Man Needs the Gift of Respect
11:37

The heart of a man dries up without words of encouragement. But the gift of respect can flood his life with hope. Let’s listen well.

All he wanted was some whispers of thankfulness.

Some acknowledgment that what he did mattered. He had worked hard all day, fought his battles, and sweated out a song. Now Otis wanted to come home and be told ‘Well done.’

He wanted his remembered movements to be noticed, affirmed, and validated as having value, particularly to his soul mate, his wife.

I believe Otis Redding wrote the song ‘Respect’ with those thoughts in mind.

Aretha Franklin changed the lyrics and the music and turned it into an anthem for both the women’s rights movement and the black freedom struggles.

Redding’s version was written from the perspective of a hardworking man who can only look forward to getting home and finally receiving the respect he deserves from his family. His version is less a plea for respect and more a comment on a man’s feeling of worth in his work life and at home. He mentions that he’s “about to, just give you all of my money,” and that all he wants in return is respect.

Franklin’s version [she changed the lyrics] is a declaration from a strong, confident woman, who knows that she has everything her man wants. She never does him wrong and demands his “respect.”  Respect – Wikipedia

You can’t demand respect. It’s a gift from a considered observation.

What is respect?

It’s interesting to dig into the Greek language and discover something of what this word means.

phobeó – to show reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience

It also has some fear-based connotations – to put to flight, to terrify, frighten.

But in the context of healthy relationships, it’s about seeing something almost god-like in the other. Something that captures your attention and admiration.

We are not in a relationship with a mere mortal as C.S. Lewis would put it.

Pulling back the curtain of a man’s fumblings and foolishness, we might see something that makes us stand in awe. That’s respect.

The greater story

There is a greater story going on, one that has been going on forever, and we are all part of it.

I can trace a few verses of my story back to 150 years ago to where a young man in England boarded a sailing ship and ventured off to a distant foreign land called New Zealand.

I learned a few years ago that before his embarkation, a church service was held at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, which was pastored by Charles Spurgeon.

Could my story include listening to one of the greatest biblical orators of ‘our’ time?

I wonder if Charles Pearman remembered the story of Abraham leaving the comforts of his home and venturing out into the great unknown.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. Genesis 12:1

Charles and Abraham remembered and moved.

I remember something of God’s nature and character and move into my world to bring something of the greater story to bear. My children are doing the same. I see the strands of an invisible thread knitting its way through our lives.

Invisible threads are the strongest ties. Friedrich Nietzsche

Respect is a gift

Aretha might have been demanding respect, but really it’s a gift.

Men and women who demand you respect them lose it in an instant. That’s called authoritarian leadership, dictatorship, demandingness — all repugnant.

Respect is an acknowledgment of seeing something in the other that makes your heart sing. It’s seeing the remembered movement of a dance that’s been going on forever and cheering on the steps.

How to give the gift of respect to a man

If you want to listen to a man, then listen for the remembered movements he makes.

Every man wants to have some sense of acknowledgment that his life has weight. That there is a good consequence to his remembered movements.

  1. Become a student of awareness Take note of what he does. How he does it. What seems to make him ‘fully alive.’ I have a builder working on my home at the moment. He is very careful and precise with his measurements. He lets me know what time he will be at our home. He has helpful suggestions about what is needed for the job. It seems that he is ‘fully alive’ with a hammer in his hand.
  2. Look for a connection to the greater story. There is a greater, larger story going on that most men are unaware that they are connected in to. I see in my builder the story of millions of men who have shown up for work every day. Building, creating, restoring, bringing order to a disordered world.
  3. Verbalise thankfulness Respect grow outs of thankfulness. We see a remembered movement and are thankful for it. I observe the workmanship, and then with a specific focus, I acknowledge the movement. ‘I so appreciated you texting me each day when you would be coming next. It helped me plan. Thanks for your suggestions too, there is a lot of wisdom behind your ideas. Well done.’

These three steps may seem weird to you, but practice them and watch a mans life grow

Quotes to consider
  • Praise and encouragement are much more effective in changing others’ behavior than is criticism, but which do you use on yourself? D. Riddell
  • The Glory of God is man fully alive.  St Irenaeus
  • It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
Questions to answer
  1. What does the word ‘respect’ mean to you?
  2. Men can often feel entitled and demand respect. Why does this never work for them or others?
  3. What is the larger story that a man you know connects into?
Further reading

Why Male Depression feels like being Impotent and Weightless

Barry Pearman

Photo by Lachlan Dempsey on Unsplash

Oct 30, 2019
Episode 13 ‘We need to talk’ about Cortisol
08:59

Criticism, shouting, or being ‘put down’ releases the hormone Cortisol into our blood system. It causes us discomfort. When we know this, we can take greater responsibility for our responses.

Four little words will send a shot of terror into a man’s soul.

‘We need to talk.’

On a local sports radio station, one of the presenters has a little audio cutaway with a deeply serious woman saying those words.

Every man has an instant flash of warning lights and hears alarm bells.

The brain brings us sentences such as

  • What have I done wrong?
  • How have I failed?
  • How am I going to get out of this?
  • Not again?
  • What is it now?

It doesn’t have to be a woman either. It could be anyone: an employer, a coach, a friend.

What words trigger you?

Criticism

What happens is that these four little words, and variances of them, touch down on the shame/ failure button.

It’s an attack on our wellbeing, or at least that is the way the body hears it. We are in danger of something – real or perceived, and our body is ready to respond to the threat.

Shouting

When shouting is involved in communication, it’s like a physical attack.

It may be words, but they can feel like a punch, a prod, a slap. It’s a power attack. ‘My voice is louder, I’m bigger, and I’m stronger.’

Again it’s an attack on our wellbeing, or at least that is the way the body hears it. We are in danger of something – real or perceived, and our body is ready to respond to the threat.

Cortisol

At the top of our kidneys, we have some little glands called the adrenal glands.

One of the hormones created here is Cortisol.

In my favorite book about men, women, and their differences, Patricia Love and Steven Stosny write this.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted during certain negative emotions.

Its job is to get your attention by making you uncomfortable so that your discomfort drives you to do something to make the situation better.

The pain a woman feels when her man shouts at her is caused by the sudden release of cortisol.

A man feels this same discomfort when he is confronted with her unhappiness or criticism. Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. Why Women Talk and Men Walk: How to Improve Your Relationship Without Discussing It

The drive

I’ve always heard about the importance of cortisol in the most threatening of situations such as when you might be under attack by a burglar, or if your house is on fire.

But what about your typical everyday life situations and relationships.  A little criticism here and there, a slightly raised voice. Non-verbal communication threats. A disturbing email lands in your inbox.

You feel threatened, and there is a release of cortisol. You respond in the most natural way to you.

Our response

Most likely, we will choose one of three responses.

  1. Fight – give back as much as we have received and then some. We may lash out criticism or shouting.
  2. Flee – we will run from the problem. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
  3. Freeze – we shut down.

This is our body responding to a threat.

What’s more, if we have had repeated threats over and over again, we get to know what is safe and what is not.

We learn that when we are in these situations, then there is a high chance of feeling uncomfortable (the adrenal glands doing their job).

It’s a cortisol hangover that we are trying to avoid.

He may look like he is avoiding her, but he is essentially trying to avoid a cortisol hangover for the next several hours. Patricia Love and Steven Stosny

Our responsibility

We are ‘wonderfully complex’ as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 139:14.

Hormones are flowing here and there. Neurons are sparking off, and all are happening without any conscious thought from us.

We have a responsibility, though. Our response to others is our responsibility.

When we notice times when we want to criticize, shout, avoid, or seemingly freeze up, we need to take responsibility for ourselves and not blame the other.

‘You make me so mad’ needs to be seen as ‘I get mad when you do this.’ No one can make you mad without your permission.

Believe it or not, no-one can actually make you angry. You choose your own reaction so quickly it’s hard to believe you did it by yourself. D. Riddell

We need to ask ourselves some questions.

  • Why are we responding in this way?
  • Are there ways that I can respond that are healthier?
  • Is my anger/frustration triggering others to fight, flee, or freeze? Sure their response is their responsibility, but am I communicating in a way that is good and whole?

Then we need to look for ways to respond that are healthier, more gracious, and bring out the best.

Paul wrote this centuries ago, but it still applies today.

Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. Colossians 4:6

Quotes to consider
  • With heavy doses of cortisol, shame hurts like hell and drains off all available energy—all you want to do is crawl into a hole. Its message is that something is producing rejection or failure—stop it and cover it up! Patricia Love and Steven Stosny
  • Monitor your thinking and deliberately dwell on the virtues of your difficult friend, or negative feelings will surely follow. D. Riddell
  • Accepting responsibility for your own responses and choices is the first step to a healed life. (Christians call this “re-pentance.”) D. Riddell
  • Instead of spending our lives running towards our dreams, we are often running away from a fear of failure or a fear of criticism. Eric Wright
Questions to answer
  1. How do you respond to various stressful situations? Fight, flee, or freeze?
  2.  Paul tells us to ‘bring out the best in others in a conversation.’ How do we do this?
  3. Do others make you angry, sad, frustrated?
Further reading

 

 

 

Barry Pearman

Oct 24, 2019
Episode 12 Are you Strong Enough to be my … Friend
08:41

If you knew me would you still love me? We all need others who will be strong enough to handle what comes from the inner world of each other.

When they had opened up, they looked at me and wondered if I would reject them. So many others had.

I have a face I cannot show I make the rules up as I go Just try and love me if you can

Are you strong enough to be my man

When I’ve shown you That I just don’t care When I’m throwing punches in the air When I’m broken down and I can’t stand Would you be man enough to be my man Sheryl Crow – Are you strong enough to be my man

 

I like Sheryl Crow’s lyrics.

I know the person she is writing about. I have met them many times.

All with different faces and varying stories, but underneath the macho or the makeup there is an inner world of struggle and outer behavior of ‘throwing punches in the air’.

They want to be known, explored, discovered and touched but is there anyone strong enough to be able to do this with them.

They want their failing movements into their world acknowledged and affirmed but that requires honesty and openness.

They have beauty, too easily self dismissed, and they long to be embraced and cherished.

Are you strong enough?

Being strong enough is to admit our weakness. That we don’t have all the answers and that we are also stumbling in the dark.

It’s not so much ‘the blind leading the blind and both falling into a pit’ Matthew 15:14 it’s more ‘I’ve got my dirty glasses on so perhaps I can walk beside you and we can find a path’.

Are you strong enough to own the weakness in yourself? That you don’t have it all together.

The vision beyond the moment

It can look very dark and ugly when people get real about their inner struggles. Their darkness can creep over you like an all-engulfing shadow that wants to swallow you up.

I’ve listened to those places. I’ve seen the black hole of despair and felt the pull.

You want to run because you don’t know what to do.

You always want to be able to do something, but it’s in the act of doing seemingly nothing, of just being there, that you are offering the most precious gift – your presence.

You hold a flickering candle of hope for them. It’s a compelling vision that things can be different.

That one has to pass through the night before the first beams of a sunrise can caress the face. That with the right direction another step forward can be taken.

This vision is not something grand and over the top. It’s more that things can get better a little bit at a time. It’s achievable.

The power of consistency

People who are ‘strong enough’ say something like this.

‘I don’t have a perfectly clear plan of what is required to help, but I’m going to be consistent in turning up.  I will be there.’

It’s being honest about how much can be offered and then following through.

People who might ‘make the rules up as they go’ need those who have a solidness to them. It’s a consistency they might rail against but it's this relationship a mutual respect may develop.

Man enough to be my man

What does it mean to be ‘Man enough’?

The Hebrew word for Male is ‘Zakar’ (Zac ab) and means to be one that remembers, recalls, calls to mind. It’s one who remembers then moves into the chaos of the world facing them.

Being ‘Man enough’ is to remember truth and goodness, then moving with grace, purpose and presence into the world of those who are ‘broken down and can’t stand’.

You don’t have to be macho to be a man.

Can you do this?

Are you one that is strong enough to help another pilgrim with a heavy load?

I believe you can.

Love deeply. Care wisely.

Quotes to consider
  • Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You
  • Compassion means entering the suffering of another in order to lead the way out.  Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
  • Talk’s easy, work’s hard. Consistent trustworthy behavior over time equals trust. Notice the word consistent is emphasized. Consistency is the key to the process. Stefanie Carnes Mending A Shattered Heart
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  • It takes immense courage to walk in solidarity with the suffering of others, and even our own. Richard Rohr Eager to Love
Questions to answer
  1. What strength do you fall back on when faced with someone in struggle?
  2. What’s it like to not have all the answers?
  3. What have been the qualities you have seen in those who have been ‘strong enough’ for you?
Further reading

Boundaries of the Heart are Lines of Love and Respect

Six Keys on How to Pray for the Healing of a Mental Illness

Barry Pearman

Photo by Arvydas Venckus on Unsplash

Oct 17, 2019
Episode 11 Stop ‘Shoulding’ and Start ‘Coulding’ Yourself
08:51

‘Shoulds’ can pile up on the shoulders and shape our thinking. But we have efficacy. We have the power to make a change and stop ‘shoulding.’ We don’t have to live under the slavery of a ‘should.’

It was always the same message. ‘You should be doing better.’ 

‘You’re not getting as good as grades as Bill and Clive runs faster than you. What’s the matter with you? You’re just not trying hard enough’. 

Taken on as messages of personal performance, we start to ‘should’ on ourselves. We compare ourselves to others and make judgments about our performance. 

‘Well, at least I’m not like them’ or ‘I’m not as good as them.’ The pendulum swings from pride to self-loathing. 

We are given very clear messages about who we are to measure up against, and it is always someone else. 

The ‘should’ on the shoulder

Recently I won an escooter in a competition.

It’s pretty cool, and I decided to take it out for a spin. I came back, was telling my wife about my ride and how much fun it was. But then I went out, and some random bird had dropped a poop bomb on it.

How accurate was that bombing raid? Right where I put my feet was this white splash of bird poop. I should have brought it inside.

Many of us have been ‘shoulded on’ for much of our lives.

The ‘shoulds’ of others morphe into our internal voice. An inner critic sitting permanently within us expressing little snipes and barbs.

The Yoke of a ‘should.’

The ‘shoulds’ add up to become an obligatory oppressive weight bearing down on the shoulders.

I’ve known people who seem to be more like a beast of burden than a person of freedom.

A beast of burden is an animal that is used to carry heavy loads or to pull a cart or plow. The animal has little choice in the matter. The yoke is placed upon it, and it must labor under its rigidity.

But we are not beasts of burden. We have choice and efficacy, the power to make a change.

The shoulds of religion

Religion has many ‘shoulds.’ The rules, the expectations, the rites of passage. All the little shoulds, both spoken and unspoken.

Here is but a few

  • Go to church every Sunday
  • Give a certain percentage of income
  • Stand while you sing
  • Pray a certain amount of times each day
  • Wear these types of clothes

All of the ‘shoulds’ can carry a subtle little message. If you do these behaviors, then you will fit in, life will work out, and God will be pleased with you.

The power of a ‘could.’

To disempower a ‘should,’ you need to replace it with a ‘could’ and then ask why.

If a ‘should’ implies obligation and offers a condemnation burden, then ‘could’ speaks of choice, efficacy, and the gift of options.

‘I should have called Dave’ can be changed to ‘I could have called Dave but didn’t because I don’t have his phone number.’

‘I should have Daves phone number’  can be changed to ‘I could get Daves phone number by calling Jim.’

If you’re ‘shoulding’ on yourself, dig a little deeper and ask why.

If others are ‘shoulding’ on, you ask why? Does it say more about them than it does about you? Are their expectations realistic to what you know about yourself?

Kristen struggles with anxiety and depression. She routinely stays in bed all day. It’s a dark world. On the outside, she looks healthy, able to function ok, and have a few friends.

So when her family says ‘You should get a job’ it’s like a sack of cement lands on her soul. She thinks, ‘I am useless. All my friends have jobs, boyfriends and I don’t.’ Shame crushes her back into her bed.

Perhaps though she could say to herself. ‘Do they know about depression, anxiety? Do they know how many times I have tried to stick at a job? Yes, I could have a job, but I know that at this stage of my recovery, having a job would cause me a lot of stress, too much for me to handle. Instead, my ‘job’ is getting well, going to see my counselor, exercise, and mindfulness.’

Kristen finds freedom from the ‘shoulds.’ The ‘coulds’ offer her the power to take the next step. Its all about the options, not the obligations.

‘I could have done that, but why didn’t I? Perhaps I need to explore why.’

A lighter yoke

A wise farmer will craft a yoke to the shape of the animal so that it is comfortable and doesn’t rub harshly.

Recently I met a lady whose business was to custom make saddles for horses. She would come and measure both the horse and the rider and then create a saddle that would be perfect for them both.

Here is what Jesus said.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:29-30

I imagine Jesus coming and lifting off a heavy yoke of ‘shoulds’. Then moment by moment, shaping a yoke that fits perfectly to you. It’s light, comfortable, and serves instead of enslaves.

Quotes to consider
  • The answer to having too much obligation in your life is to own your own choice – to quit playing the victim’s role and risk disappointing someone.  D. Riddell
  • Love wins over guilt any day. It is sad that we settle for the short-run effectiveness of shaming people instead of the long-term life benefits of grace-filled transformation. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • In the moments of insecurity and crisis, “shoulds” and “oughts” don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep “yeses” that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. Lao Tzu
  • Should; shouldn’t; ought; oughtn’t—the enemies of contentment. Frank Delaney

  • It’s hard to feel excited about God’s love when all your religion consists of is ‘count your blessings, pay your tithes, kick the devil, and don’t skip Church’. D. Riddell

  • Real self-esteem comes from within; it is the existential, spiritual truth that we have value and worth intrinsically, because we are here and breathing, not because of anything we have or can do, nor how others regard us. Terrence Real
Questions to consider
  1. How have ‘shoulds’ dominated your life?
  2. What would a well-fitting lighter yoke look like to you?
  3. A ‘could’ asks a question. Do you think ‘coulding’ might be more helpful than ‘shoulding’?
Further Reading

Barry Pearman

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Oct 02, 2019
Episode 10 Washing the Memories Free of Trauma
09:09

Some trauma memories keep us locked into our past. But there is a cleansing that can happen. We need to bring ourselves to the presence of one who will wash us pure.

I didn't know what to do when they were sharing some of the stories of their past. I had known this person for decades, but only now, they were sharing something new, painful, and full of trauma.

It explained why they held certain beliefs, behaved in specific ways, and seemed to be haunted by a ghost of the past.

What could I do to help them with the wafting stench of an old trauma that was once again drowning their present?

You want to go back and stop the trauma, but there is no time machine.

Perhaps a quick prayer and get out of the trauma zone A.S.A.P.

'This person needs professional help,' and a thought of an escape route appears.

The shame of another time 

A dominant feature of when you have these terrible memories is the utter shame that you have them. You fear to have them exposed. You don't want anyone to know.

So you hide and try and sort them out yourself.

You feel like you're a 'second class citizen' to God, of being on the outside.

Everyone else is pure, good, and clean. God would love them but not you. Why would God love you with all this trauma? Not good enough.

Memories and traumas can pollute the thinking and stigmatize the soul. They shut down the true self from expressing itself.

In biblical times, and even in many countries today, there were a group of people kept on the outside of society. They were the lepers.

No one was to come near them. They certainly could not come before God. There were holiness requirements needed to be met. Washing, ritual inspection by priests, sacrifices, all required before connection and acceptance.

Jesus washes

Jesus was one that was known for connecting deeply with those on the outside of acceptability. This was offensive to some.

He was also pretty harsh to those who felt outward appearance ('I've got my life together') was more important than the inner life.

Blind Pharisees! First cleanse the inside of the cup, and then the whole cup will be clean.

“Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders! You are like beautiful mausoleums—full of dead men’s bones, and of foulness and corruption. You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin. Matthew 23:26-28

In one of the most beautiful stories of Jesus, we find him washing feet. He takes on the role of the lowest servant in a household and washes the feet of his friends.

He got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. John 13:4, 5

Jesus turns the world upside down. His disciples then and now are still in shock.

Sprinkling you clean

We used to have to wash before coming to God (Exodus 30:20), now God washes us.

For here’s what I’m going to do: I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. Ezekiel 36:25 

Those memories, traumas, moments where your life course was transgressed, they can be washed clean.

It won't take the event away, but the washing will clean off the pus and heal the wound.

The expression of a love that is greater than the trauma experienced will overwhelm the pain of the memory.

We learn of something greater than that which has locked us down to the past.

Our feet sense the presence of walking an ancient path of goodness.

Stand at the crossroads, and look,     and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it,     and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

How to be washed

Washing is a matter of ongoing prayerful attentiveness.

As memories come and float into your awareness, capture them.

Invite Christ to come with a bowl of pure, clean, sparkling water. Water that is full of truth and love.

See Christ pour water over your brain that washes through every neural pathway that contains those memories — replacing the pain with his presence.

Ask Christ to debunk the memory of the pain and fill it with an awareness of him.

Repeat this over and over again. Every time a trigger is pulled present yourself to the high priest (Christ) for cleansing.

Traumatic memories don't have to keep you bound to another time. We can ask Christ to wash our thinking with his presence.

Quotes to consider
  • Grace is amazing, by disorienting us it properly orients us. Ronald Rolheiser
  • Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
  • The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson.
  • We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr 
  • Redeemed pain is more impressive than removed pain Phillip Yancey Renovare podcast - Redeemed Pain
  • God's healing has more to do with learning to worship than it does with getting life fixed. Craig Barnes 
Questions to answer
  1. What is your immediate internal response to someone sharing pain?
  2. How would you respond to Christ washing you?
  3. How are we to grow awareness of Christ with us and his desire to wash our painful memories?
Further reading

https://turningthepage.info/dirt-spit-mud-and-6-things-to-learn-about-healing/

https://turningthepage.info/six-keys-on-how-to-pray-for-the-healing-of-a-mental-illness/

https://turningthepage.info/is-my-mental-illness-because-of-sin-in-my-life/

Photo by Taylor Harding on Unsplash

Sep 25, 2019
Episode 9 Three Responses to Chaos
09:34

When chaos comes, or we become aware of the mess we are in, we have choices to make. Charge at it, retreat from it, or engage in the mystery.  

All the nicely laid out plans had been turned upside down. I had a recipe for life, and now all the measurements and list of ingredients had fallen off the page. It was a mess, chaos.

The question was what to do next.

The word chaos comes from the Greek word khaos – denoting a gaping void or chasm.

You’ve been there, I’m sure.

To varying degrees, we have all faced times when life was disordered, seemingly out of control, messy. It could be a relationship breakup, illness, job loss, a hurting family member or friend. Really anything that shakes your life to the core.

There is also the daily chaos that you walk in. Nothing is ever straight forward. There are always challenges, obstacles, and areas of confusion.

You want to move forward, but you don’t know-how.

You might retreat from the chasm, but it’s still there.  In that ‘no – mans land’ of indecision, depression and anxiety stalk around you looking to take you down.

I have found that there are generally three responses to chaos.

Three responses to chaos
  1. We charge at the chaos I think of the biblical character of Samson taking on his world of chaos with all his muscular strength. He runs right into the battle, arms flailing, war cry, stamping his will on the problem. However, instead of heroic success, he ends up as a prisoner with his eyes gouged out.

     

    Then there is Peter on the mountain when Christ meets with Elijah and Moses. He has to do something. He looks at the chaos and offers to make a tent. Matthew 17:1-4

    We do the same. Its easy to make snap judgments, speak when we need to listen, determine how things should be. We act without consideration.

  2. We run from chaos Perhaps the chaos will be resolved without my involvement.God brought chaos to Jonah, and he ran. Moses ran into the desert and Elijah into a cave.

     

    We want to avoid the struggle.

    The chaos seems too much, and so we run and hide.

    Like Adam and Eve, we gather up a few fig leaves and try to hide our vulnerability and nakedness.

  3. We engage in the mystery

All of the characters above had to come to a place where they engaged in the mystery of the chaos.

Life is not like a crime novel where the mystery is solved and you, the observer, can return knowing that all is well in the world.

Engaging with the chaos involves moving into it and asking questions which may have no clear cut answers.

We enter a dark room.  Stoping, we let our eyes adjust to the darkness and try to remember what we know of the layout.  We pray for the first glimmers of sunrise.

How to engage with mystery

The first mention of chaos in the Bible is in the very first verses of the creation poem. It sets the stage for the rest of life.

The earth was without form [formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness]  and void [emptiness], and darkness [darkness, obscurity] was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering [to grow soft, relax] over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2   Bible Hub

Over that place of chaos and mystery, God was in a place of softness, relaxed with what was happening. No stressing out.

Gods invite is to become relaxed with mystery and chaos, knowing that something good can creatively come out of it.

We then speak and ask for light to appear.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Genesis 1:3

We speak questions into this chaos, knowing full well that there may be no clear cut answers.

Then we listen for whispers of truth to guide our stumbling.  We pray for light to be spoken into darkness. A glimmer we can hold onto.

Mystery and chaos do not have to be feared. In the chaos, there is an invite to trust.

Quotes to consider
  • “I want to be part of a church that neither reduces mystery to formulas to get what I want nor describes the Christian life in such lofty, abstract terms that I stay lost in the fog.  I want my church to help me identify the categories I can think in and reflect on as I decide how to navigate my way through life, as I make the thousand decisions that life requires me to make every day and handle its thousand challenges.” Larry Crabb Real Church,  Chapter 17, “Signposts Pointing into the Fog,” pp. 104
  • Masculinity begins to grow when a man asks questions for which he knows there are no answers. No man can escape the sphere of mystery. If he lives in relationship and has any desire at all for the relationship to work, he will face unsolvable confusion. If a man is to be fully a man, he must learn what it means to move in darkness. And that will require him to admit “I don’t know what to do” with a despair so real that no recipe will help. Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam pg 66
  • Am I willing to move into the mystery of relationship with another human being, renouncing all efforts to control the outcome?” Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam pg 110
  • The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation more often happens not when something new begins but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—disruption and chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites and sometimes forces the soul to go to a new place because the old place is not working anymore. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • Change can either help people to find a new meaning, or it can cause people to close down and turn bitter. The difference is determined by the quality of our inner life, or what we call “spirituality.” Change of itself just happens; spiritual transformation is an active process of letting go, living in the confusing dark space for a while, and allowing yourself to be spit up on a new and unexpected shore. You can see why Jonah in the belly of the whale is such an important symbol for many Jews and Christians. Richard Rohr When Things Fall Apart
  • The Jewish community has a unique expression to describe this Creator: “He who spoke and the world came into being.” He is a God who uses language to establish relationship. He does not retreat from darkness and chaos. Rather, he speaks into it. And after his creative activity, he keeps the Sabbath.  Larry Crabb The Silence of Adam pg 90
Questions to answer
  1. What is your most natural response to chaos?
  2. How does it feel to ask questions where there are no clear cut answers?
  3. Have you had a ‘belly of a big fish’ experience? How dark was it?
Further reading

Life’s not Fair! There is a Mystery to be Known

Only Brave People Come Here – The Place of the Soul

Barry Pearman

Photo by Giga Khurtsilava on Unsplash

Sep 19, 2019
Episode 8 Every Footprint Needs Affirmation
09:10